By Rep. Anita Kulik
September saw both the Pennsylvania House and Senate return to session. Both chambers passed bills that will be sent out for consideration by each chamber.
As the budget process continues, the Senate passed a Fiscal Code Bill in the form of Senate Bill 1300. While the underlying budget was passed in July, a Fiscal Code is needed to address how the items in the budget will be appropriated.
As Chair of the Game and Fisheries Committee, I pay close attention to any fiscal matters that arise concerning the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission. Senate Bill 1300 has some alarming language that will divert monies – substantial monies, a total of $150 million – out of the Game Commission funds that are received from the gas and oil lease revenue. The bill would transfer the monies to the Clean Streams Fund. There is additional language that would impose a tax on state game lands.
Both the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission get the bulk of their revenue from the sportsmen and women through license sales and registrations. The Game Commission benefits from monies from the gas and oil leases, money that is specifically earmarked for the use of the Game Commission in its service to hunters, game management, wildlife, and game lands.
The Game Commission also receives federal funds from the Pittman-Roberston Act, or the Wildlife Restoration Act. The objective of this Act is to provide funds to state governments for wildlife projects from the proceeds received from an 11% tax on Firearms, ammunition and archery equipment.
The monies are distributed to the states based on a formula that considers the area of the state and the number of licensed hunters. Certain conditions exist for states to receive the monies, most notably that none of the monies from a state’s hunting license sales may be used by anyone other than that state's fish and game departments. It is feared that this appropriation of funds in Senate Bill 1300 would jeopardize Pennsylvania’s share of the Federal dollars.
Pennsylvania is one of the top hunting states in the country. Not only are there tens of thousands of resident hunters, but Pennsylvania hunting brings in thousands of out-of-state hunters who prize our game and game lands. Last year, Pennsylvania received $38 million from the Pittman-Roberston fund. Any monies diverted from the game funds could result in Pennsylvania not receiving these much-needed dollars.
My goal as Chair of the Game and Fisheries Committee has been to protect the interests of our hunters and those who fish, and everyone who enjoys the beautiful outdoors that exist in our Commonwealth. I have learned during my time in Harrisburg that, too often, some legislators vote on measures, without fully considering the impact that such legislation may have. I have spoken out against this proposed legislation and will continue to speak out against this appropriation of funds.
I have heard from all the stakeholders, as well as individual hunters and sports clubs, who understand how devastating this could be to the hunters, game lands and wildlife of our Commonwealth.
I hope that everyone who has an interest in our beautiful and bountiful outdoors will reach out to their elected representatives to encourage them to not support legislation that would result in a substantial loss of revenue and wildlife protection.