Governor Paul LePage signed into law this morning four bills that will provide badly needed funding for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Last week the legislature sent the Governor 53 bills and five bond proposals for consideration. DIF&W’s four bills were the first of the 53 to get his attention.
Dave Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the sponsors of the four bills, and the members of the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Appropriations Committees, deserve a lot of credit for this achievement, with special thanks to the Governor for signing the bills. The four bills the Governor signed today are these.
LD 213, sponsored by Senator Mike Thibodeau, originally proposed a $500,000 appropriation for each of the next three years for fish stocking. The appropriation was whittled down to a single $200,000 in the next fiscal year.
LD 637, sponsored by Representative Russell Black, is a resolve that increased the amount of money tagging agents receive from $1 to $2 for each $5 tag purchased by a hunter. That change will result in a $30,000 loss for DIF&W.
LD 1242, sponsored by Rep. David Burns, establishes a check-off on the hunting license application for donations to a predator control fund or a deer management fund. The bill was unfortunately projected to result in a loss of $38,000, because it also directs DIF&W’s portion of the deer-tagging fee into a special deer management fund – and I guess no one thinks the check-off will raise any money!
LD 372, sponsored by Rep. John Martin, added $100,000 to DIF&W’s predator control program. That program was budgeted at the $50,000 level this year, but the agency only spent $15,000. Next year it will have $150,000 to reduce coyote predation of deer.
The Governor also signed today the bill reforming the Land Use Regulation Commission, sending most of its regulatory duties to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Maine Forest Service.
Two more bills that are important to fish and wildlife resources and programs await a decision by the Governor. A $5 million bond issue for the Land for Maine’s Future is critically important (read my post about this here). Most observers believe the Governor will veto all the bond issues, and some are predicting the legislature will over-ride those vetoes.
The second bill is one that then-Senator David Trahan sponsored, allowing fish and wildlife habitat and other projects to be funded with TIF money generated from businesses that are awarded TIF tax breaks for business expansion projects. It could mean millions of dollars for fish and wildlife projects in the future. We don’t know how the governor feels about this proposal.
So far, so good.