LAKE OCONEE — Your answer probably is how in the world could what is going on in Washington, D.C. impact fishing? You have probably heard by now about the fiscal cliff our country faces if it does not deal with the serious budget and deficit problems looming over our country.
When these situations occur and they happen all too often at the Federal level, just about every thing is scrutinized to find places that can be cut. That is already happening and you need to be aware and be ready to strongly voice your opposition to any attempts to cut dollars that are slated for fishing.
In the situation that our country is now facing, I agree that all things that taxpayer income tax funds are used for must be scrutinized to find savings but some Federal dollars and programs that support fishing should be off limits.
On August 9, 1950, the congress passed and the president signed the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act and that law came to be more commonly called the Wallop-Breaux Act. The law provides Federal aid to the states for management and restoration of fish having material value in connection with sport or recreation in the marine and or fresh waters of the United States.
The law has been amended to provide funds to states for aquatic education, wetlands restoration, boat safety and clean vessel sanitation devices among other changes. The funds collected by the program are collected in an account known as the Sport Fish Restoration Account.
The funds come from a 10-percent excise tax on certain items of sport fishing tackle, a 3-percent tax on fish finders, trolling motors, import duties on fishing tackle, yachts and pleasure craft and a portion of motorboat fuel tax revenues and small engine taxes.
Participating states were required to pass laws which include a prohibition against the diversion of license fees for any other purpose than the administration of the state fish department. In other words the law was very specific about what the funds could be used for.
Over the years these funds which are collected every time you buy fishing tackle or fill up your boat with gas have been used for a wide range of programs that have improved sport fishing. These funds are dedicated to improving recreational fishing in the United States. That is up until now they have been set aside and dedicated for that purpose.
Every time our country is faced with tight budgets or the budget mess like our country now faces, congress and the administration look for easy money that can be corralled and used to reduce the deficit problems. It seems not to matter that those funds come from a fund that was setup and dedicated for specific purposes.
Just recently the Office of Management and Budget put forth a recommendation to raid the Sport Fish Restoration funds at the tune of $34 million to help ease and reduce the federal budget. Those funds are paid for and I argue owned by fishermen and boaters but Uncle Sam never lives by the rules and laws that it establishes no matter how strongly the laws are written to preserve those funds. So what can fishermen and boaters do?
Call or write all your congressmen and senators and let them know that you are opposed to those funds being used for any purpose other than what the law established they be used for. It is really unfortunate that our lawmakers create these fiscal cliff situations and then want to raid good programs that are funded not by taxpayer income taxes but instead are funded by sport fishing and boating folks.
Pay careful attention over the next few months as congress attempts too deal with the budget mess but do not wait before voicing your opinion to elected officials. Otherwise it might be too late. Good fishing and see you next week.