FRENCH HILL: He has an idea to raise money from non-hunters for use of Game and Fish Commission land.

U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock wrote the state Game and Fish Commission before a recent town hall meeting with an idea for increasing revenue by raising money from people who don’t fish and hunt.

His idea drew a brief mention in the Democrat-Gazette, which prompted me to get a copy of his letter to Game and Fish Chairman Ford Overton. It said in relevant part:

I wrote his office seeking elaboration on what kind of charge or license Hill might have in mind. I got no response

A Commission spokesman said there are no plans or discussions in progress at the moment relative to charges for use of Game and Fish land and facilities for activities such as Hill mentioned.

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Expanding activities that don’t center on “hooks and bullets” is an idea I’ve long championed. The Game and Fish website lists some paddling and nature trails, along with wildlife centers, but the agency’s main focus is fishing and hunting

It would be a departure from general practice to impose a permit fee for access to state-managed land. No such fees exist to hike through state parks, not to mention national forests and many other public preserves. Such a fee might not be what Hill means. But heads up.

One bit of clarification, should you think from Hill’s letter that Game and Fish operates on hunting and fishing licenses: License fees provide less than a third of agency revenue.

In fiscal 2018, Game and Fish collected $91.5 million in revenue, of which $26.6 million came from license fees. Another $23.7 million came in federal aid. The biggest source of revenue was the agency’s 1/8th-cent share of the general state sales tax. The so-called conservation tax is split among several state agencies. It provided $32.3 million to Game and Fish in 2018. And it, unlike relatively static license fee income, has been increasing steadily. A variety of miscellaneous revenues and grants provided more than  $6 million.

UPDATE: I’m reminded of then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker’s effort to cope with budget needs by reducing state spending and other measures, including a short-lived plan to charge admission fees to state parks. It was not popular.

SPEAKING OF FRENCH HILL: The former banker wrote a letter published in the New York Times today opposing ideas from Democratic congressmen to limit corporate stock buybacks. You may have read that corporations have taken their Trump tax cut windfall and used it to buy back stock rather than invest in expansion.

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