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E-M:/ Non-game check off targeted in budget



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Enviro-Mich message from "Tom & Anne Woiwode" <woiwode@voyager.net>
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Folks:

Dave Poulson has an article in Booth papers today about the rather odd plan
in the Governor's budget to put $2.5 million of general funds into the
Non-Game Trust Fund, which would result in topping out the trust fund to its
statutory limit and then causing the Look for the Loon checkoff to be
dropped from the state's income tax forms.  Story is at:

http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf?/news/stories/20000203lnoloon.frm

The story discusses the implications of this budget maneuver, many of which
are unclear, but it is not clear why the the Gov's folks have decided it is
time to zap the loon off the tax form.  Evidently the kid's trust fund is
also targeted for an influx ($13.1 million) to top it off as well, and kick
it off the form.

What is the greatest concern for me is that there is no guarantee that there
will be no net loss of funds available on an annual basis for the grants
supported by the Non-game Trust Fund. Ironically, the investment of $2.5
million will result by itself in a decrease of annual funding for the
program of a 1/3 to 1/2.  For more almost two decades, environmentalists
have advocated for expansion and diversification of the funding base for
non-game related programs.  Virtually every idea raised has been grabbed by
other interests, who have fought against the non-game advocacy folks to pay
for their pet programs, (including the dilution of the tax check off
originally by sharing the spot on the form with the children's trust fund.)

The ideas for a license plate were brought to the state by environmentalists
in the 1980's, and at the time shot down by the Secty. of State.  Now, as
noted in the Booth article, there are 21 different ideas for license plates,
ranging from the Roadkill license plate to funding for universities.  The
original estimates on the possible income to the Non-game fund from license
plates made in the early 1990's indicated that the a substantial increase in
funds could be expected if the non-game license plate was offered BY ITSELF
to the public.  Now, with many other interests vying for the spot on the
bumper, it is not at all clear that the amount raised will be the same.

This is an important issue for Enviro-Mich followers to keep track of.  Our
funding of our Natural Heritage Programs as a whole continue to be very low
compared with other states, even though there have been some improvements
and even though the prosperity currently in the state means that there are
funds that could be directed to support these programs.

I certainly hope the net effect of the program shift here, both investment
of funds in the non-game fund and drawing money from licenses plates, will
be a benefit for the grants provided by the Non-game program.  But vigilance
in this process and comments from those concerned about the program to the
House and Senate members of the respective Appropriations Subcommittees are
timely and appropriate on this issue.  Right now, the DNR budget is in the
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources, chaired by Rep.
William Byl.

Anne Woiwode


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tom, Anne, Nate and Pete Woiwode
5088 Powell Road
Okemos, MI 48864

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