Minnesota's hunting and fishing license fees would be increased for the first time in more than 11 years under a bill that was sent to the Senate floor on Friday.
But, despite widespread support from hunter and angler groups, it's uncertain that legislators will approve fee increases in an election year. Some Republicans have been lukewarm to the idea because of their no-new-tax pledges, though the chief authors in the House and Senate were Republicans.
"It's time,'' said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, Senate author. "It's the longest period of time between increases. Over 60 hunting and fishing groups are asking for their fees to go up.''
The Senate Finance Committee agreed and sent his bill to the Senate floor, where it could be voted on this week.
However, a companion bill in the House wasn't heard before Friday's deadline. Still, the issue isn't dead there. "Absolutely not,'' said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, the chief House author.
He said the fee increases still could be offered as an amendment to another bill, or the House could consider them in a House-Senate conference committee.
Tom Landwehr, Department of Natural Resources commissioner, said that despite recent DNR budget cuts, its Game and Fish Fund will go into the red by 2013 without fee increases.
"The last time fishing license fees went up, gas was $1.74 a gallon,'' Landwehr told the Senate committee. "Now it's $3.74. We're in serious need of this fee increase.''
Under the Senate bill, individual fishing licenses, now $17, would rise to $22. A small game license, now $19, would jump to $22. And a $26 deer license would increase to $30. The $29.50 individual sports license, good for angling and small game hunting, would cost $38. Nonresident hunting and fishing license fees also would be increased.
Ingebrigtsen's bill generally would raise fees slightly less than Gov. Mark Dayton had proposed.
No boat fee increase?
The Dayton administration also proposed raising boat registration fees to raise money to fight against invasive species. The current $5 surcharge -- the main source of funding for invasive species management -- hasn't been raised since 1993. The surcharge is tacked onto a three-year boat registration fee, so the annual cost to boaters is $1.67.
But neither the Senate nor the House has approved an increase, and it looks doubtful they will.
Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, proposed an amendment to Ingebrigtsen's bill that would have boosted boat license fees to $10 for canoes, kayaks and sailboats, $20 for boats less than 17 feet long and $25 for those over 17 feet.
"We need a long-term funding solution'' to fight invasive species, she said. But her amendment failed. Ingebrigtsen said he feared the increases, combined with the hunting-fishing license fee increases, would be too much for the public to accept.