Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Fish & Boat Commission: Most Pressing Priority Is Securing The Long-Term Financial Future Of The Agency

On February 27, Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director Timothy Schaeffer told the House Game and Fisheries Committee the most pressing legislative priority for the Commission is “securing the long-term financial future of the agency.”
He appeared before the Committee to present the Commission’s latest annual report.
“While our revenue has remained stagnant, costs continue to rise. Fish Fund expenditures have increased by 27 percent or $8.2 million since 2005, while Boat Fund expenditures have risen by 30 percent, or $3.3 million.
‘Inflation, increased personnel costs, and aging infrastructure have all placed considerable pressure on the Commission’s long-term financial picture in the absence of new or increased revenue.
“The Commission has taken aggressive steps to cut costs and secure new revenue where possible. Since 2005, we have sold non-performing assets like real property, vehicles, and other equipment; marketed oil, gas, water access, and timber resources; and secured revenues through the Act 13 Impact Fee. We are also receiving the full amount of taxes paid on motorboat fuel thanks to the Act 89 Transportation Bill.
“On the expenditure side, we have reduced full-time and seasonal staff positions. The Commission has also deferred investments in $18 million of prioritized equipment, vehicles, and maintenance needs for its hatcheries, public facilities, and other operations.”
He noted there was considerable momentum behind Senate Bill 30 last session that would have allowed the Commission to establish registration and permit fees, but it did not get over the finish line in the House.
In talking with legislators, Schaeffer said he was pleased there is considerable interest in the legislation again this year and Rep. Thomas Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) has been circulating a co-sponsor memo for the fee legislation since February 19.
“We truly believe that allowing the Commission to incrementally adjust its own pricing will lessen the “sticker shock” for anglers and boaters that comes with a larger increase every 10-to-15 years,” said Schaeffer.
[Note: Last October the 4 Chairs of the Senate and House Game and Fisheries Committees promised to seek additional funding for the Commission in 2019.]
Schaeffer also told the Committee he supported Gov. Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania infrastructure plan as a way to improve public safety and accessibility associated with other hazardous dams and public access areas across Pennsylvania.”
He also praised members of the PA Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team for their efforts to rescue 23 people stranded on rooftops as a result of flooding in Pennsylvania last year.
The same unit was deployed to South Carolina to assist with life-saving rescues in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
Click Here for a copy of Schaeffer’s written testimony.  Click Here for a copy of the Fish and Boat Commission’s latest annual report.
Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) serves as Majority Chair of the House Game and Fisheries Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-705-7167 or send email to:  Rep. William Kortz (D-Allegheny) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-780-4783 or send email to:
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