The Proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Budget in Massachusetts Just Got Sweeter

Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States

  • On February 18, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker submitted House Bill 4479 (H.4479), “An Act Making Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2022 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations and for Certain Other Activities and Projects,” to the members of the Massachusetts General Court.
  • H.4479 includes a provision that would require the Inland Fisheries and Game Fund to be annually reimbursed for “all lost revenue attributed to the issuance of discounted or free hunting or fishing licenses.”
  • This legislation coincides with the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which includes the removal of the Sunday hunting restriction for deer during archery, and a reduction in the archery discharge distance from 500 feet to 250 feet.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has routinely supported efforts to reimburse the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife for lost revenue, emphasizing the Division’s crucial conservation efforts.

Why it Matters: Sportsmen and women have played a crucial role in funding conservation efforts in the United States for over 80 years. The American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a “user pays – public benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right to do so, has served as a shining beacon for the management of fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Revenue from sporting licenses is a crucial pillar to the ASCF. Currently, the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife is not reimbursed for the roughly 27,000 free licenses that are given to residents that are 70+ years of age, though the Governor’s supplemental budget would take corrective and beneficial measures towards addressing this figure.

On February 18, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker submitted a supplemental budget, House Bill 4479 (H. 4479), to the members of the Massachusetts General Court. This move follows the Governor’s filing of the proposed Fiscal Year 2023 (FY2023) budget roughly three and a half weeks prior. CSF previously reported on the significance of the proposed FY2023 budget, but a provision included within the recently introduced H.4479 has sportsmen and women abuzz. Section 13 of the supplemental budget would require the Commonwealth’s general fund to annually reimburse the Inland Fisheries and Game Fund for “all lost revenue attributed to the issuance of discounted or free hunting or fishing license” – an action that would provide financial stability to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife).

Over the past year, the topic of conservation funding has made news in the Bay State. 2021 brought forth much-needed, phased-in increases in sporting license fees, as well as a short-term fix to reimbursing MassWildlife for lost license revenue due to free and discounted licenses. Currently, this accounts for 12% of the licenses given out. The mechanism outlined Section 13 of H.4479, whereby the Division would receive reimbursements more permanently, would provide significant financial relief.

Throughout 2021 and into 2022, CSF has testified in support of mechanisms that would provide increased funding for the Division, recognizing the crucial role it plays towards the conservation of Massachusetts’ fish and wildlife and their habitats. CSF supports the numerous pro-sportsmen’s provisions included within Governor Baker’s proposed FY2023 and supplemental budgets. Additional updates will be provided as they are made available.

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