Steep hunting, fishing license fee increases proposed in Pennsylvania
If fish- and wildlife-management officials get their way, it will soon cost more to hunt and fish in Pennsylvania. A lot more, actually.
The Game Commission recently unveiled an informational campaign aimed at convincing lawmakers sportsman and the news media that the agency needs more revenue, announcing a proposal to raise hunting license fees in steps that will result in hunting license fees doubling in about five years. Hunting license fees have remained unchanged in the state since 1999. No state lawmaker has yet announced that he or she will introduce such a bill.
Under the plan, a resident adult hunting license, would go from $19 now to $29 in year one of the proposal, to $34 in year three and to $39 in year five. Resident furtaker licenses would increase by the same amount, and other hunting license fees would rise in a similar fashion.
And state Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Allegheny County, recently announced a plan to introduce legislation that would include a six-step increase for fishing licenses and trout stamps for the Fish & Boat Commission, starting in 2017. His proposal initially would increase the cost of a resident annual fishing license to $26.25 from its current $21. Additional annual increases of 3 percent would follow, topping out in 2022 at $30.43 for a one-year license. That's a 45 percent increase over today's cost.
In large part, the agencies need the increased revenue to offset tens of millions in burgeoning retirement and health care obligations for their employees. The commissions do a lot of good for sportsmen and the general public, but there’s no denying that they have become large bureaucracies, employing well over 1,000 people between them.
The leaders of the commissions warn if license fees are not increased soon, both will be forced to implement some pretty dramatic cuts to programs in the next few years.
In the past, getting a hunting or fishing license fee increase through the Legislature usually took several years at a minimum. Lawmakers have traditionally been skeptical of commission officials’ claims that their agencies are almost broke.
But these days, in the Legislature – just like in the general public – many fewer hunt, fish or seem to appreciate or understand wildlife- and fisheries-management issues, so there seems to be less cynicism in the Capitol directed toward commission leaders.
That may translate to quicker approval of license fee increases than in the past. Time will tell.