ST. PAUL -- Increased hunting and fishing license fees were paired Wednesday with lottery money to increase funding for natural resources.
The package endorsed by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee would mean about $31 million extra per year for the Department of Natural Resources.
It's the most comprehensive package endorsed so far in a series of funding proposals to help close DNR funding gaps that have left dozens of jobs open and programs unmanned. The issue is the DNR's top priority this session.
Other plans are coming soon.
Senate Environment and Agriculture Finance Division Chairwoman Jane Krentz, DFL-May Township, said she was pleased with the committee's backing of her plan.
Her original bill provided only for the fee increases, which would infuse the DNR's Game and Fish Fund with about $6.1 million per year until a longer-term funding source could be worked out.
Other lawmakers didn't think that was enough and amended the bill to shift to natural resources about $25 million per year that currently goes into the general fund in lieu of a sales tax on lottery tickets. That's about 6.5 percent of total lottery sales.
Half would go to the Game and Fish Fund, which helps pay for salaries and programs within the fish, wildlife, ecological services and enforcement divisions. The other half would go to state, local and Twin Cities parks and trails.
Krentz supported the amendment, but wanted the license fee increase to remain the priority.
''We absolutely have to pass this license fee increase,'' she said. ''I don't want to add anything to it that would sabotage the delicate balance.''
Krentz' basic proposal would have increased individual fishing licenses by $1, small game licenses by $2 and a deer licenses by $3. The state would chip in $1 to the Game and Fish Fund for every $2 raised by increased license fees.
A provision tacked onto the bill would increase the fishing license fees by $2 instead of $1. The extra $317,000 generated from that would be sent to the enforcement division that is struggling with 17 vacant field stations out of 147.
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