Outdoors: Older outdoorsmen may face fee
KDWPT wants to do away with ‘fish, hunt for free’
Since 1971, Kansas residents who are 65 years of age or older haven’t had to purchase a Kansas hunting or fishing license. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) is asking the 2012 session of the Kansas Legislature to consider removing these license exemptions for people 65 years of age or older.
According to KDWPT officials there are several reasons for this request. The KDWPT operates its fisheries and wildlife programs without the aid of Kansas state general fund tax money. These programs are paid for by licenses and permit fees charged for various hunting and fishing activities. In addition, for each license sold in Kansas the state receives federal money as a match from excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment.
This money is allotted to each state based on the number of licenses sold and divided accordingly. Fifteen percent of the KDWPT budget for fisheries and wildlife programs comes from the federal funding matching money.
Fishing and hunting programs in Kansas are supported by license and permit sales. According to the KDWPT, removing the senior exemptions will assist the agency to continue providing a variety of outdoor opportunities. One popular example includes the Kansas Walk-In Hunting Area program which has opened more than a million acres of private land for public access. Another is the Community Fisheries Assistance Program which has opened more than 200 community lakes for fishing.
Additionally, license money is used to pay for fisheries management and fish stockings in 24 federal reservoirs and 40 state fishing lakes. In addition, license fees aid wildlife-related law enforcement, wildlife management on 100 public wildlife areas, boating access, fish habitat programs, research, education and wildlife population and health monitoring.
The KDWPT recognizes the changing demographics of Kansas residents. More people in the Baby Boomer generation will be reaching their 65th birthdays in the coming years. For example, the number of deer hunters 65 years of age and older that purchased deer permits has increased 25 percent in the last five years. Concern is that without a broadened funding base when many of these users leave the system others still paying for annual licenses will have to carry a heavier burden for fish and wildlife programs. The KDWPT said the elimination of the senior license exemptions will spread the cost among those that use the resources, keeping them equal and affordable for all.
Individual hunting or fishing licenses cost $20.50 for the calendar year. A combination hunting/fishing license is $38.50 which amounts to 11 cents per day. The KDWPT points out that the cost of a yearly license is a bargain compared to other forms of entertainment like dining in a restaurant, watching a movie or playing a round of golf. In addition, they point to the cost of the license as but a small percentage of the overall cost of other expenses relating to a hunting or fishing experience.
The KDWPT estimates the lost revenue from the senior license exemptions are considerable. Calculations used based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2006 National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife-related Recreation in Kansas (survey results from the most recent USFWS survey will be available this summer) estimates that 20,000 Kansas residents 65 years of age and older hunted in Kansas that year.
The KDWPT receives $18 from each license (after vendor and convenience fees) which would amount to $360,000. Matching federal money for each hunting license is $16.15. Subtracting 7,696 (the number of seniors who purchased a deer or turkey permit which can be counted for federal aid matching funds) that amounts to $198,709 in federal matching money for hunting licenses for a total of $558,709.
Using similar formulas and information, the KDWPT estimates lost revenue from annual fishing license exemptions for seniors amounts to $847,289. This is based on 33,000 anglers 65 or older at $18 for a total of $594,000. Federal aid ($8.31 is available as a match for each fishing license) from the sales of these licenses would amount to $253,289 (subtracting 2,520 anglers who purchased third pole or trout permits which can be used for federal aid reimbursement).
The KDWPT says it doesn’t want to unfairly target seniors who enjoy hunting and fishing. However, more than $1.4 million in lost revenue is substantial. They believe the elimination of the exemptions will make the license fee structure more equitable for all hunters and anglers and help to continue programs and services they enjoy.
Individuals wishing to express their concerns or questions are encouraged to contact their elected officials, or they can contact the KDWPT Office of the Secretary, 1020 S. Kansas Ave., Ste. 200, Topeka, KS 66612, or call (785) 296-2281.
HEARING SET FOR WATERCRAFT TAX
House Concurrent Resolution 5017 will have a hearing at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 2 in Room 152 S in the State Capital. This addresses the current rate of taxation on watercraft in Kansas.
Currently, watercraft are taxed at 30 percent of assessed value which is considerably higher than cars, trucks, recreational vehicles and motor homes. The House of Representatives passed HCR 5017 in 2011 by a vote of 121 yea, 2 nay. It now must be approved by the Senate before it can be voted on by the public as a change in the Constitution.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) estimates as many as 10,000 boats and other watercraft are registered in other states to avoid paying Kansas property taxes. As a result, counties lose considerable revenue and the KDWPT loses revenue as well as federal aid reimbursable matching monies for improvements in boat ramps, safety markers and buoys, boating access, boater education and enforcement. The KDWPT supports this resolution.
If passed by the Senate, the resolution will go on the ballot to be voted on by the public as a change to the Constitution in the November 2012 election. If approved by the public, the 2013 session of the Kansas Legislature will determine how much to lower the current rate of taxation on watercraft personal property. This process already has been completed for vehicles, camping trailers and other recreational vehicles.
Anyone wishing to participate in the hearing and provide comments can contact Mary Jane Brueck, Committee Assistant at (785) 296-2713.
Marc Murrell can be reached