ST. PAUL -- It is not something heard much around the Legislature: people suggesting fees they pay go up.
But Minnesota anglers and hunters did just that Tuesday and the Senate natural resources committees complied, backing a bill that ups fees to replenish a fund running out of money and help fight invasive species. It was the first of many House and Senate votes on the topic.
Legendary Minnesota Vikings Coach Bud Grant, 85, joined dozens of hunting, fishing and environmental supporting the license fee increases.
"I'm here to promote something more important than a stadium," Grant said to the delight of committee members. "I'm here to promote a tax increase for hunting and fishing."
Grant said he has hunted in many states and Minnesota charges too little. "This is the greatest bargain the state offers its citizens."
However, the avid outdoorsman added, "we can't exist at this level."
He said the bill written by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, that would raise an annual Minnesota fishing license to $22 does not go far enough.
He said even Gov. Mark Dayton's $24 proposal is too cheap, saying he thinks an annual license should cost $30.
The issue brought together a broad coalition of groups that want to fees raised because the state game and fish fund is running low at a time when more money is needed to fight invasive species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels.
No one spoke against the proposal.
President Lance Ness of the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance said funds are needed to maintain good hunting and fishing habitat.
"We love them to death," he said about fishing spots ranging from Lake Superior to ponds known as potholes.
Some testifiers asked for even more fee increases, including doing what Dayton proposals in raising boat fees. Ingebrigtsen said that putting higher boat fees on top of hunting and fishing increases would be too big of a boost this year, but he promised to consider it in the future.
Hunting and fishing license fees have not gone up for a dozen years. About 1.5 million people buy fishing licenses and 600,000 buy hunting licenses each year.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.