It’s something food consumers have increasingly been dealing with in recent years. Now Pennsylvania anglers may have to do the same.
Pay more for less.
If you’ve noticed in the grocery store, some companies – to disguise price increases – have changed their packaging.
That bag of frozen chicken breasts still looks the same. It’s as tall and wide and deep as ever. But whereas it once sold for $5.98 and contained 5 pounds of chicken, now it’s $6.98 and contains 3 pounds. Or that “pint” of ice cream that contained an actual 16 ounces and sold for $3 now holds 14 ounces and sells for $3.25.
That’s what anglers may soon be looking at, minus the intentional deception.
Sen. James Brewster, an Allegheny County Democrat, is sponsoring legislation that would increase the cost of fishing licenses, trout stamps and Lake Erie permits. You can read the details here.
On Friday, John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, spoke about the proposal with reporters in a conference call. He said the commission doesn’t want to increase fees. Every time that happens, 8 to 10 percent of license buyers give up fishing. Not all come back, he said.
He can’t muster any enthusiasm for raising prices for that reason, he added. But he also said he has to be realistic.
“A fee increase is never popular. But sometimes it’s necessary, and that’s exactly what this is,” he said.
Neither that, nor much else of what he spoke of, was new.
But one thing did stand out.
Arway made it clear that anglers, who have been told they’re going to have to pay more or make do with less, are – like grocery shoppers – really likely going to have to do both.
Brewster’s proposal is expected to raise $7.8 million in new revenue for the commission over time.
It will only bring in $5.4 million in new money in its first year, though, Arway said. The commission needs $9.1 million by then and every year thereafter to cover pension, health care and other costs.
“It gives us some relief, but not total relief,” Arway said of the fee hikes.
To make up the difference, it’s “going to have to do other things,” he said, suggesting that may mean cuts in programs and services. Higher license fees will scale back just how “dramatic” those have to be, but that’s it, he said.
“We’re not sure what that little less is. But we’ve still got some belt tightening to do,” Arway said.
The commission is and has been trying to be as efficient with its spending as possible, Arway stressed. It’s mowing less grass on its properties less often, for example. It’s doing less maintenance at boat launches. And it’s shrinking; through attrition, it’s cut back from the maximum 432 to 376 employees.
All that and more has forestalled the need for a license fee increase by three to four years already, he said.
But – unless state lawmakers find a way to get the commission more money, without asking anglers for it – time’s run out, and costlier days are ahead.