Bob Haase Another Can Of Worms

Where Is the Money Going?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the WDNR budget cuts in our Governor’s proposed budget bill.  Now I am wondering where the money saved from these budget cuts is going.  The reason I ask this is that the majority of money used to fund the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources comes from fishing and hunting licenses and permit fees. These funds are segregated funds to operate the WDNR and cannot be transferred to the general revenue fund. If you remove the money spent by the WDNR for the purchase of land through the Stewardship fund, around 7 percent of the operational cost of the WDNR comes from general revenue funding or in other words your taxes.

Most people think the WDNR is this large out of control state agency that has plenty of fat to cut.  The truth is that the WDNR has been cut more than any other state agency.  The state has been playing games and most people are not aware of the games being played.  A couple years ago the state had a freeze on hiring and this also applied to the WDNR even though they had money from license fees and permits rather than taxes to pay for the salaries that had been approved in the budget.  Many of these positions were replacements resulting from staff retirements.  Our legislature then eliminated the positions permanently saying they were obviously not needed because the positions were not filled.

In the proposed budget bill there are cuts that most sportsmen can’t understand eliminating positions in the science and education part of the WDNR.  Fisheries will see around a 30 percent cut in their budget after seeing about a 12 percent cut in the last budget. There will also be major cuts in forestry with most of the state forester positions being eliminated.  These are also the people that are trained to fight forest fires and operate the heavy equipment used to fight forest fires. That could be critical when a dry year like is being predicted this year.  There will also be cuts in staff that are supposed to be overseeing things like manure spills, non-point pollution, and other air and water quality measures.

Many people think this might be good because it will reduce their taxes.  This will not be the case because only around 7 percent of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources budget is funded by tax dollars.  Another thing that would be cut from the WDNR is funding for the removal of dead dear from our roadways that is paid to counties for this purpose.  This would make taxpayers responsible for this cost instead of segregated funds from the WDNR.  The counties and municipalities would also receive 50 percent less funding for their recycling efforts which are required by state law.  This means the cost would have to be picked up through local tax dollars.

If these WDNR cuts are made as part of the budget bill this would not result in a tax cut for the citizens of Wisconsin because these are segregated funds raised by hunting and fishing licenses and permit fees.  I will ask the question again…. Where is this money cut from the WDNR going if it cannot be transferred to the general revenue fund?  I think sports men and women should start asking questions as to where the money they spent on their licenses are going if these cuts are made.  We expect this money to be used to maintain and improve hunting and fishing in our state and not used to balance our budget problems that were not caused by WDNR spending.    

Bob Haase is the host of “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m. on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ.