To The Daily Sun,
I've stated before that the Department of Fish and Game is in the throes of an $3.5 million shortfall in their 2015-16 bi-annual budget and expects to get a $1.5 million bailout from the state's general fund. So where is the rest of the money to come from?
The House Finance Committee's proposed HB-2, directs the department to raid dedicated funds. The proposed budget requires Fish & Game to use the Wildlife Habitat Account, RSA-214:1,F and the Fisheries Habitat Account, RSA 214:1,G, "to support staff costs, wages, salaries, benefits and other expenses of the department employees."
These two accounts are in place for the "management, preservation, conservation, restoration and maintenance of wildlife and fisheries habitat on both public and private lands" with 50 percent of the annual revenue to be dedicated to pay the cost of labor and materials for direct Wildlife and Aquatic management activities. Any remainder of funds in these accounts is to be used for the acquisition of private land to protect critical wildlife and fisheries habitat.
In addition, the $5 boat registration surcharge that is intended for the purposes of the statewide public boat access program, RSA 233-A:13, will now go to offset the operating expenses of the department and its employees.
None of the monies from these three accounts was ever intended to be used to "fund" staff or operating expenses. By diverting this money from its intended purposes the department fails in its primary mission and we might as well change the name to the Department of semi-public Bait Hunting and Fishing Employee Support Fund.
This is just another Band-Aid solution, what happens in the 2017-18 bi-annual budget? What other programs will be gutted?
Eric T. Rottenecker
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