Tuesday, March 27, 2018

House Game & Fisheries Committee Hears Apology From John Arway On Handling Of Proposed Fish & Boat Commission Cuts

John Arway, the Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, Tuesday apologized to members of the General Assembly and anglers for his handling of a plan for cutting Commission costs, if the House and Senate do not provide for a fishing license increase by July 1.
Arway appeared before the House Game and Fisheries Committee to present the Commission’s 2017 Annual Report.
Arway spoke directly to Senate Bill 935 and the issue of limiting the term of Commission executive directors that would force him out of the agency in his opening statement to the Committee.
Arway said testimony he has presented to the Committee for years has documented the need for additional financial resources for the Commission and the need for a fishing license increase, including passing Senate Bill 30. [The bill has remained in the House Game and Fisheries Committee for almost a year to the day since March 28, 2017 after Senate passage.]
He apologized to the members of the General Assembly, the Commission Board and anglers for the way he handled a plan last September to make $2 million in proposed cuts, if additional financial resources were not provided.
He again took responsibility for the decision saying the details of the proposed cuts were his decision and his alone.
The proposal to make cuts that closed a hatchery and eliminate stocking in areas of the state where members of the House and Senate opposed legislation to increase in fishing licenses was immediately tabled last year, he said, and deferred to after July 1 this year when those decisions must be made.
Arway said the concerns over the September plan have distracted attention from real fishing and boating issues, like the need for additional financial resources, but now is the time to put down the sabers.
Arway said he would welcome input from the General Assembly after July 1 on what cuts should be made, if additional financial resources are not provided.  He made the same offer in the Senate last week.
He noted anglers and papers around the state have overwhelmingly opposed Senate Bill 935 that would limit the term of the executive director.
Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria), Minority Chair of the Committee, said he has lost trust in Arway because of the way he handled the plan to make cuts last September.  That’s why he voted to move Senate Bill 935 out of Committee.
Rep. Joe Emrick (R-Northampton) said he cannot support a fishing licensing increase when the Commission has $61 million or more in uncommitted monies or reserves when any deficits could be made up by the reserves.
Arway responded by saying part of those monies are a rainy day fund for the Commission and would be depleted in five years if no funding increases are approved.  A Penn State review praised the Commission for having the reserve fund, he said, as well as the Commission’s fiscal management.
Arway said he could spend the reserve tomorrow, which would take care of half of the deferred maintenance and other projects, but the Commission would be in terrible condition.
He said he and Commission staff have laid out the entire financial picture with anglers again at recent programs across the state and they understand it.  He said he was “baffled” why members of the General Assembly do not seem to understand it.
Rep. Garth Everett (R-Lycoming) said the General Assembly should allow the Fish and Boat and Game Commissions to manage their own agencies and should be independent, that includes passing Senate Bill 30.  He said we should not have 253 people from the House and Senate micromanaging these agencies.
Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams) said he has been a John Arway fan for a long time. He said he will do whatever it takes to help resolve the political issue, including going over to the Senate, so the focus can be on doing what needs to be done for anglers and boaters.
In response to other questions, Arway covered issues similar to the ones he did in the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee last week.
Click Here for Arway's opening statement. Click Here for a copy of Arway’s written testimony on the Annual Report. Click Here for a copy of the Fish and Boat Commission’s 2017 Annual Report.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing (when posted).
Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by sending email to: kgillesp@pahousegop.com.  Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to: bbarbin@pahouse.net.
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