DNR just slyly reported that Michigan hunting license sales dropped to 729,000 in 2014, a 4.2% drop from 2013 sales and the all time low in data extending way back to 1958. This drop is even worse than the numbers suggest, since the new HB 4668 hunting license rules require base licenses for hunting activities which did not require licenses in previous years. And if you believe President Obama and his statistical mathmagicians, the U.S. economy surged at a 5% GDP growth rate in 2014Q3 just before Michigan’s traditional firearms deer season. Michigan’s population increased by 11,684 people in 2014, the third consecutive annual increase. So the number of hunters should have increased in 2014? But the number of hunters in Michigan dropped, and hunter numbers declined because license fees skyrocketed under HB 4668 of 2013.
The most popular hunting license prices increased 50 – 100 % under the new 2014 fee schedule, although a direct comparison is not possible because the licenses were restructured under HB 4668 to ‘simplify’ the license schedule. Even though the DNR has not released license sales dollar amounts yet, we can still sketch out the doleful effect of the DNR hunting license fee increases on Michigan’s staggering economy.
Politicians of all stripes are rooting around for fresh money to fulfill past, present, and future promises lately, figuring that the economy is so hot that their depredations will go unnoticed and have no consequences. Let’s take a look at a Michigan example: the increase in license fees for hunting and fishing which the Legislature authorized in 2013 and which took effect in 2014.
The most popular hunting and fishing license prices doubled under the new fee schedule, although a direct comparison is not possible because the licenses were restructured to ‘simplify’ the license schedule. Governor Snyder’s goal for these increases was to raise an additional $ 18.1 million dollars annually for the DNR. The Senate Fiscal Agency benchmarked the anticipated annual increase at $ 19.7 million.
These are fees, paid voluntarily, so why should we care? Only taxes matter? The State of Michigan has been reducing the amount of money appropriated to the DNR from tax revenues since 2000, a reduction that now amounts to about 70%. So fees are now required to replace taxes. A common story across the United States. Fees play better with voters than taxes.