NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

December 11, 2013

Editorial: NH canoe tax is a desparate money grab

(Continued)

Other members of the sustainability panel say the fee is necessary.

“It would be catastrophic if we don’t find an additional source of funding,” said the chairman of the Fish and Game Commission, Thomas Hubert.

He said small-boaters “will be willing to contribute” once “they learn the big picture.” Not that they would have much choice, except to avoid New Hampshire waterways.

State Rep. David Kidder, R-New London, another panel member, said $10 a year is a small price to pay to enjoy the privilege of canoeing or kayaking.

Paddling your own canoe is now a privilege?

Not surprisingly, sportsmen are not thrilled by the fee — or tax, as they call it.

“I’m just shocked that the state wants to add another tax,” said Don Hathaway, treasurer of the Plaistow Fish and Game Club. “To me, it’s another tax — that’s all it is.”

“The government is trying to find any way it can to collect more money,” Pelham Fish and Game Club president Mitch Kopacz said.

We agree.

It makes sense for hunters and fishermen to help pay for the services that directly benefit them: game management and fish stocking programs, for example.

The agency claims that everyone who enjoys the great outdoors benefits. Should hikers pay a fee for their hiking shoes? What about those wildlife watchers? A fee on their birder binoculars?

The other issue is that Fish and Game has done next to nothing to explore alternatives. The agency says it has cut expenses as much as it can; they all say that. It is reluctant to raise fees — and hasn’t done so in 10 years — because it fears that would drive away even more hunters and fishermen, though the sustainability commission is recommending the Legislature consider raising the fees.

The canoe tax is nothing more than an attempt to charge people for Fish and Game services that do not directly benefit them in order to balance the books without making hard decisions on spending. If it succeeds in roping in boaters, the agency will continue seeking to expand the pool of payers.

The New Hampshire Legislature should scuttle the canoe fee.

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