April 11, 2009 in Idaho

Only nonresidents to pay more to hunt, fish

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – People who hunt or fish in Idaho but live elsewhere would pay more under legislation that passed the Idaho House on Friday. Idahoans’ fees wouldn’t increase at all.

The scaled-down fee increase proposal will bring in about $2.6 million more to operate the Fish and Game Department next year, if Gov. Butch Otter signs it into law, and that’s only if out-of-state license and tag sales remain even.

“It’s all laid on the back of the nonresident hunter,” complained state Rep. Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis, who opposed the bill. But the measure, Senate Bill 1141a, passed on a 49-15 vote and headed to the governor’s desk. It earlier passed the Senate, 31-4.

Fish and Game initially sought a 20 percent fee increase, then lowered that to 15 percent because of concerns about the economy.

The final version increases fee revenue to the department by a projected 7 percent, but lawmakers also ordered the department to cut 5 percent from its personnel costs, which they estimated would save the department another $2.5 million.

Some lawmakers noted that the final version of the bill matches a much-quoted legislative saying about tax policy: “Don’t tax me, don’t tax thee, tax the guy behind the tree.”

Idaho’s Fish and Game Department, which is funded entirely by fees and receives no general tax support, hasn’t had a fee increase since 2005.

Barrett said she feared the bill would cause out-of-staters to trim their plans to hunt in Idaho.

But Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “All of our prices still keep us in the middle of the pack of all of our surrounding states for nonresident tags, so we’re not pricing ourselves out of the market with this increase.”

Under the bill, a nonresident combination hunting and fishing license would rise to $235 from $198, while a nonresident elk tag would go up nearly $45 to $415.

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