MARSHALL - What looked like a no-brainer has turned into a question mark at the state Capitol.
The proposal to raise hunting and fishing license fees has been put on hold in the Minnesota Senate after an amendment to the bill was defeated Tuesday on a 39-27 vote with lawmakers in both parties split.
Republican author Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen tabled the bill after he attempted to add Senate language that includes the fee hikes to a House-passed bill without the increases.
It is not known when the bill will be brought up again.
"The thought was to take a dollar out of the walleye stamp and dedicate that to walleye stocking for the DNR, and that ran into a buzz saw," said District 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton. "So it's being tabled now until Ingebrigtsen figures out what he's gonna do. He has other options."
The proposed license fee increase would be used to replenish and maintain Minnesota's Game and Fish Fund, which is projected to go into the negative as early as next July. The Game and Fish fund cannot operate in the negative, and if legislation doesn't pass this year to increase license fees it would mean nine months of operating in a deficit. The end result would be cuts to outdoors programs and services throughout Minnesota.
Magnus voted in favor of the amendment and said something has to be done to keep the Fund from going in the red. He said if people don't like the idea of a license fee increase, one option would be to purchase a lifetime license now, before the proposed license fee takes effect.
"If you do that now you don't have to worry about it for the rest of your life," he said. "I think generally people support the fee increase, but if you don't go get a lifetime license now. It's roughly $250, and I know times are tough, but that's something people could think about if they don't want a license fee increase."
General hunting and fishing license fees have not increased in Minnesota for more than 10 years, so there's little for opponents of an increase to complain about. Most sportsmen's groups around Minnesota are already on board with a bump in fees if it means keeping open programs that affect the quality and quantity of hunting and fishing.
The new fees, if approved, would take effect March 1, 2013. The DNR's license year begins in March.