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Danielle Nordine and Don Davis / State Capitol Bureau, Published April 17 2012

Hunting, fishing fee dispute stalls outdoors bill

ST. PAUL – Raising hunting and fishing license fees, supported by the governor and key legisla-tors, is in limbo after Tuesday debate on a Senate game and fish bill abruptly ended.

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, blamed politics for the failure of his license fee increase, a priority of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. Ingebrigtsen, Dayton and other pro-ponents of higher fees say they are needed to fill a game and fish fund that is going broke.

Unless Dayton can come up with some Democratic votes for the plan, Ingebrigtsen said he does not plan to resume debate on his bill.

Besides the fees, Ingebrigtsen’s bill would allow a wolf hunting sea-son and make other chang-es in outdoors-related law.

The senator said Tues-day’s dispute also is forc-ing him to reconsider plans to debate another bill today that includes funding for fighting inva-sive species.

Discussion on raising hunting and fishing license fees ended suddenly when the proposal was defeated 39-27, and the broader game and fish bill did not reach a vote at all when Ingebrigtsen tabled it.

Those fees have been the same for about 11 years. Minnesota’s Game and Fish Fund is expected to be in debt by 2013 if nothing changes.

Ingebrigtsen warned that could mean layoffs and cutbacks without an increase.

“They need that cush-ion,” Rep. Denny McNama-ra, R-Hastings, said.

“These are the outdoor folks that care about the environment … and they’re willing to pay their way,” Ingebrigtsen said.

Fee increases were not included in the House version of the bill that passed. But McNamara, the House environment committee’s chairman, said he was hopeful working with the Senate on the issue would result in higher fees.

“This is a really im-portant issue for the gov-ernor and his agency,” he said. “This needs to be bipartisan.”

Ingebrigtsen blamed Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, for the rejection of higher fees.

“He’s making politics out of something that should not be partisan,” Ingebrigtsen said.

Bakk did not immediate-ly return a request for comment.

During Senate debate, Bakk said he was disap-pointed the bill would eliminate conservation fishing licenses, which he instigated a few years ago. The less expensive licenses put a voluntary cap of half the regular limit on fish.

“The point of it is to change the culture of fish-ing,” he said.

Bakk said he might be more willing to support fee increases if the licenses were not eliminated.

Ingebrigtsen said he did not resist the Bakk pro-posal, but he did blame Bakk for failure of the fee increase. He did not plan to talk to Bakk about the issue, but asked Dayton to intervene to get Democrat-ic votes to raise fees.

Senators of both parties voted against the fee pro-posal, which Ingebrigtsen said would hurt: “They are going to have to live with it.”

Davis and Nordine work for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum.

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