Sportsman funds under attack.


Buckeye Dan
October 25, 2012, 12:31 PM
Contact your reps and get them to make these funds exempt!

The Office of Management and Budget, controlled by the White House, is threatening to sequester funds from the Pittman Robertson and Wallop-Breaux Act at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sequestration sets aside funding--effectively “freezing” it -- until a debt is repaid.

The listing of the P-R funding (as well as $34 million of Dingell-Johnson funds that support sport fishing) is part of a huge package of across-the-board government budget reductions planned to take effect January 2, 2013, unless Congress can develop a plan to cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Pittman-Robertson Act, more formally known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. As most hunters know, the act put an 11 percent excise tax on rifles, shotguns, ammunition and archery equipment that is distributed to state game and fish agencies for the purposes of habitat acquisition and improvement, reintroduction of declining species, wildlife research, hunter education, shooting range development and other conservation projects. (The tax on handguns is 10 percent.)

It is this funding and these projects that have brought back species such as whitetail deer, turkeys, wood ducks, antelope, bald eagles and Canada geese from dangerously low levels a century ago to the strong, sustainable populations we see today. Hunters’ dollars are directly responsible for these and other conservation milestones.

Since 1937, hunters have contributed nearly $7 billion dollars through the Pittman-Robertson Act for the benefit of wildlife conservation. For any given project, P-R funding pays 75 percent of costs, and states must contribute at least 25 percent--most of which comes from hunting license fees.

Commenting on the damage posed by the loss of P-R and D-J funding, Jen Mock Schaeffer, Government Affairs Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), indicated it could be wide-ranging. She said, “For some state game and fish agencies, these funds are 40 to 60 percent or even more of their entire operating budget.” She added that reductions could result in staff layoffs and halt or suspend projects such as boat ramp construction, habitat restoration and trout stocking. Programs like Archery in the Schools and the number of hunter education classes could be affected as well. She said, “Everything from human capital can be affected to the actual conservation activities on the ground, and then the services provided to the constituents, to one degree or another. AFWA will be working with the Administration and Congress to try to resolve this issue so these funds will not be sequestered."

Ironically, any attempt to withhold this funding could actually result in a weakening of local economies if it drives the number of hunters down. Over the years, as P-R funding resulted in game numbers increasing and hunting opportunities improving, local economies nationwide benefitted from the influx of sportsmen’s spending. Hunters and anglers combined spent $90 billion on gear, trip-related expenses, license fees and other costs in 2011 alone, according to the recently released 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation. Hunters by themselves spent $34 billion. The ultimate goal of sequestration is to help the economy-- but cutting P-R and D-J funds will have the exact opposite effect because it could eventually reduce the number of people who hunt and fish--and mean the loss of their spending.

In just one example of possible impacts on a state agency, West Virginia DNR Director Curtis Taylor told West Virginia Metro News that sequestration could mean a loss of $800,000 in funding for game management, research and restoration and fisheries programs. Public rifle ranges and campgrounds on public hunting areas would have to be closed, among other effects. "They're talking about doing this for nine years," said Taylor. "At the end of nine years, we'll be lucky to keep the lights on."

AFWA, numerous state agencies and sportsman’s groups including NRA are holding discussions and examining possible actions or ways to get these funds exempted from sequestration. The simple fact is that these are trust funds-- voluntary excise taxes paid by gun owners, hunters and fishermen for a specific purpose, and they should not be sequestered.

The best answer, of course, is for Congress to take action on the deficit and head off sequestration altogether.

Commenting on the issue, NRA”s Susan Recce, Director of Conservation, Wildlife and 'Natural Resources, said, “One thing is for sure, even if the Administration can freeze money it can't eliminate funds from the account. The funds will still be held in trust for the states. The funds are real, not a ledger account and cannot be used for any other purpose than what is set out in the P-R and D-J Acts.”


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October 25, 2012, 01:22 PM
The only good tax is a dead tax. I don't approve of P&R money being diverted to our massive public debt but I am much more in favor of sportsman supporting the causes that they deem important through donations of their own choosing. In my state I see agency funding that goes to purposes that frankly disgust me and knowing that money collected from sportsman as a mandatory tax goes toward some of that waste doesn't do any wildlife any favors.
Remember that all taxes ultimately are collected at the point of a gun and redistribution at any level removes the individuals choice and freedom.

Buckeye Dan
October 25, 2012, 02:29 PM
The P&R act keeps the tax out of the hands of the treasury. It diverts the money back to the states for wildlife research, surveys, wildlife management and land acquisition for hunting. All sorts of conservation efforts.

What this administration is considering is by design a violation of the P&R act. We were already paying the 11% tax on guns and ammo anyway. I'd rather it be used for wildlife and conservation efforts than handed over to the treasury. They would probably earmark it for gun violence in the healthcare bill like Chicago wants to do with their bullet tax.

October 25, 2012, 04:56 PM
It's unfortunate but if you want the gov to balance it's budget it's going to have to spread revenue around and cut some programs. Every one thinks it's a good idea until it hits a program that affects them.

October 25, 2012, 05:43 PM
Typical Gov't.

They'll continue to collect the tax, but divert it. I bet to making new episodes of Sesame Street for Pakistan.

"Since 1937, hunters have contributed nearly $7 billion dollars through the Pittman-Robertson Act for the benefit of wildlife conservation."

I bet that is a heck of alot more than what 'tree huggers' have done.

Buckeye Dan
October 25, 2012, 05:45 PM
Re-distributed with permission from the US Sportmen's Alliance.

Lack of Leadership in D.C. Impacts Hunters and Anglers
Oct25 by Bill Horn

Hunters and anglers have something new to worry about in Washington, D.C.: “sequestration.” This technical term refers to looming automatic budget cuts—scheduled to go into effect in January – as a means of reducing the federal deficit. We’re facing these cuts because the Obama Administration, Senate, and House of Representatives have not been able to agree on a federal budget and pass specific bills to fund the government, while reducing the annual deficit. Without Congressional action to pass a budget and particular spending bills after the election, large automatic across the board funding cuts will be triggered in 2013.

Of particular concern to sportsmen are reductions of Pittman-Robertson (PR) and Dingell-Johnson (DJ) funds to state fish and game agencies. Sequestration of these funds, which provide for hunting and fishing programs all across the country, could be an unintended and disastrous consequence of the process.

For decades, hunters and anglers have paid special federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear with the revenues going to two special federal funds: Pittman-Robertson for hunting and Dingell-Johnson for fishing; PR and DJ for short. These taxes – about $31 million a year to PR and $34 million to DJ — go only to these two funds and the money can be spent only on programs to benefit hunting and fishing. In other words, these funds were purposefully designed to be restricted to ensure that the money was not used to pave roads, build prisons, support Social Security, the Department of Defense, or any other federal program. Furthermore, only the amount of tax revenue that actually goes into each fund can be spent – no money is ever borrowed to pay for PR or DJ projects and no other federal tax revenues support these projects. Because expenditures cannot exceed income, PR and DJ do not contribute to overall spending or contribute to the deficit.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (part of the White House) has the sole authority to decide which federal programs are subject to sequestration. The OMB has interpreted the 2011 budget law that the PR and DJ funds are “non-exempt discretionary spending” and will be sequestered. That action, scheduled for January, will reduce the amount of PR and DJ funding available for hunting and fishing programs to the tune of $31 million and $34 million respectively. Overall $65 million of hunters and anglers dedicated taxes will be sequestered (i.e., not available for programs [see OMB Sequestration Report, Appendix A at pages 110 and 112].

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, state fish and game agencies and others have argued that the special nature of these dedicated funds means they should not be subject to sequestration. As these funds come from special user taxes and the monies can be used only for hunting and fishing programs – and do not contribute to the deficit – they should be exempt from the sequestration cuts.

So far the White House is not listening. Unless the White House and OMB relent, or sequestration is avoided because the Senate and House agree on a comprehensive new budget and spending bills between now and January, $65 million of PR/DJ funds will not be distributed to the state fish and game agencies hunting and fishing programs. These cuts represent 100% of annual PR/DJ funding.

For some of us, this is déjà vu all over again! In the 1980’s, Congress and the Reagan Administration agreed on a similar program of automatic budget cuts called Gramm-Rudman (after two then U.S. Senators). Like now, OMB decided that the cuts applied to PR and DJ. Our community objected. As Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks overseeing administration of the PR and DJ programs, I was right in the middle of it.

Fortunately we were able to persuade key members of Congress to join with us and we prevailed. OMB and the Reagan White House conceded and PR and DJ funded hunting and fishing programs were not cut. It appears it is time to dig out my letters and memos from 26 years ago to make the same case to the Obama Administration.

Subjecting PR and DJ to automatic budget cuts made no sense in 1986 and makes no sense today. We will be carrying this message to the White House and OMB, and the Interior Department. If the Administration won’t help, we will be on Capitol Hill asking the Senate and House to protect sportsmen’s dollars.

Our greater worry is that OMB will sequester the PR/DJ funds and let our tax revenues pile up, unspent. When the unspent amounts total $100 million or more, we suspect that OMB will try to transfer the money – our hunting and angling equipment tax dollars – to some other federal programs. If they try, they will meet us in federal court arguing that redirecting our tax dollars violates the law.

Hunters’ and anglers’ special excise taxes, and the good work these dollars support, should not be caught up in the political mess created by budget inaction and impasse in Washington, D.C.


November 7, 2012, 09:29 PM
Seems I remember Clinton got caught with his hand in this cookie jar trying to divert these funds away from their purpose. I think his hand got slapped by Congress. Somethings NEVER change.

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