On Friday, Governor Paul LePage will present his new two-year budget. And the big question for Maine sportsmen is this: will he keep the promises he made to us more than 4 years ago?
In his first campaign for governor, LePage promised the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine that he would fund 20 percent of the budget of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife with General Fund money collected from all taxpayers. That would be a simple recognition that the agency does a lot of work for the general public.
Game wardens, for example, spend about half their time on police – not wildlife – work. Warden Colonel Joel Wilkinson has promised me, sometime this month, a report on how game wardens spent their time in the last year. The Colonel established a goal, two years ago, of increasing the amount of time wardens spend on conservation work, and decreasing the time spent on police work. It will be interesting to see if he’s made any progress.
This is a very important issue, partly because half of all the revenue DIF&W makes from its sale of licenses, permits, and more to sportsmen, goes to the Warden Service. Think about that. Our license and permit fees could be cut in half if the public paid its fair share of the agency’s budget. Or the agency could expand its fish and wildlife management and other work – much of which benefits all the people of Maine, not just those of us who hunt and fish.
In 2010, Candidate Paul LePage even promised to veto any budget that did not include that 20 percent level of public funding for DIF&W. But he never submitted a budget that included public funding for DIF&W – at any level. That’s a pretty big broken promise!
Will he keep his promise this year? We’ll know very soon.