John Arway, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, told the House Game and Fisheries Committee Wednesday rising pension and health care costs, without any revenue relief, will force the Commission to drastically cut programs by FY 2018-19.
Arway said despite the measures taken by the Commission to live within its means, it must either cut programs or increase revenue to continue functioning.
He noted one solution was to pass Senate Bill 30 (Eichelberger-R-Blair) that would allow the Commission’s Board to set license fees now being considered in the Senate. He also cited a proposal being circulated by Rep. William Kortz (D-Allegheny) to allow for fee increases.
"We respectfully request that the General Assembly consider and pass one of the solutions this spring so we have time to implement the solution in the 2018 license year," said Arway. "This will allow us to avoid the need to make deep program cuts in the next two years, and continue to provide the goods and services that sustain the $1.2 billion industry that anglers and boaters provide every year for Pennsylvania."
His comments were made during an informational meeting on the Commission’s 2016 Annual Report.
Arway noted 2016 marked the 150th anniversary of the Commission’s founding and a year of achievement in its own right.
He highlighted the inaugural S.O.S. Save Our Susquehanna habitat project in Limestone run, $25.7 million in new funding to repair 10 high-hazard and unsafe dams and the launch of the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters Program.
In response to questions, Arway noted pharmaceuticals in our waterways are being recognized as an increasing problem to aquatic life and pointed to testimony he gave to the Senate Environmental Committee on February 7 on the issue.
With respect to smallmouth bass populations in the Lower Susquehanna River, Arway said the population has improved over the last three years, but is still far from recovery since it crashed in 2005.
He said the Commission would be seeking public comment on the status of bass fishing in the river at three public hearings from Sunbury to Lancaster.Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria) serves as Minority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: email@example.com.