On the face of it, the decision by the Fish and Boat Commission to reduce the number of trout produced by the agency’s hatcheries by 750,000 seems odd when you consider that 70 percent of people who buy fishing licenses spend the extra couple bucks to get a trout stamp.
Why would you produce less of the type of fish that people are most interested in catching?
But even if you are not a fisher-person, there is another reason to wonder about the wisdom of the move: The state just put millions in tax dollars into renovating the Bellefonte hatchery.
The Fish and Boat Commission says closing the hatcheries is part of a strategy to narrow a $9 million funding deficit. Closing the hatcheries will save about $2 million.
Just three years ago, the state completed $4.3 million in repairs to the filter system and other fish-breeding stuff at the Bellefonte hatchery. And about half of that money was paid through Growing Greener grant dollars, said Rep. Gary Haluksa, Democratic chair of the House Game and Fisheries Committee.
Spending grant money to fix up facilities you turn around and close is questionable policy no matter how you slice it.
Fish and Boat Commission executive director John Arway told the House committee that they selected Bellefonte as one of the hatcheries to close because it is the most expensive hatchery operated by the agency. There will be no changes at the Linesville hatchery in Crawford County and the Corry hatchery in Erie County.
Haluksa said that the decision to close a facility so soon after the state spent money to renovate it cannot look good.
“That might come around and bite them in the (donkey) the next time they ask for grant money,” Haluska said.
He didn’t say donkey, by the way.
Haluska suggested that the Fish and Boat Commission could generate revenue by raising the cost of a license rather than cutting the number of fish.
Lots of business around Harrisburg this week
n House Republicans have begun circulating the draft of the legislation that would enable the state to privatize the liquor system. Grocery stores, for an initial license fee and annual renewal fee of $25,000, would gain the ability to sell two 6-packs of beer and up to six bottles of wine per customer. Big grocery stores would have to pay a $30,000 fee. Big-box retail stores, for an initial license fee and annual renewal fee of $35,000, would gain the ability to sell beer by the case and up to six bottles of wine. Convenience stores, for a $10,000 fee, would gain the ability to sell one 6-pack of beer. Beer distributors, for $150,000, will gain the right to sell wine and break beer down into six-packs, instead of selling beer by the case. Makes me thirsty just writing about it.
n Budget hearings got underway last week, which for the most part, were pretty run-of-the mill. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby faced a Senate panel at the beginning of the week, with much of the discussion dealing with the pension reform plan. Amidst all of the uncertainty about the legality of changing pension plans in the middle of labor contracts, it seems like it will be months before we really know what is going to happen. “If the governor’s budget were passed just as he presented it, the most surprised person in Harrisburg would be Tom Corbett,” said Sen. John Wozniak after Zogby’s appearance.
n The biggest loser? We talked last week with lawmakers who argued that the basic education funding formula proposed by the Department of Education was not necessarily treating rural schools badly because many of them are already heavily-subsidized. An analysis by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center found that the biggest losers are students in Philadelphia. Since 2010-11, the per pupil funding in Philly has dropped $1,258. But there are rural schools that fare poorly, too. In the list of the 20 biggest losers: Sharon comes in fourth, New Castle comes in ninth, Ferndale in Cambria County comes in 13th and Johnstown comes in 17th.
Finnerty reports from Harrisburg for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.’s Pennsylvania newspapers, including The Meadville Tribune. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cnhipa.
WALK TALK: Vegas, UFC: Here we come
1 I know the saying is "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," but I'm going to forgo that adage next week. After all, part of my week-long trip with three friends to Las Vegas includes my first in-person viewing of an Ultimate Fighting Championship card. I'll give you all the juicy and exciting details from UFC 160 in next week's column.
Seizure of phone records will hurt your right to know what government is up to
Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.
WALK TALK: LeBron’s near unanimous MVP and another hoax
1 LeBron James became the first player since 2000 to receive every vote but one while being named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. It was his fourth MVP award, and it surely won’t be his last. The one thing I question in all this is the person who didn’t vote for James — The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn. As I said here in February — back when he was scoring 30 points and making 60 percent of his shots every night — his winning the award was a lock. Washburn’s excuse is that the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony “meant more to this team” this season. He stopped LJ from becoming the first ever unanimous NBA MVP.
Spring brings back motorcycle memory from the old country
Traditionally, the sign of spring is manifested by the return of robins. But I know spring is really here when a roaring motorcycle goes by my house and my son’s shop gets full again with motorcycles that need serviced. Immediately, memories from my youth come back to me, and the following is one of those memories.
WALK TALK: OKC’s fate rests in Durant’s jump shot
1 The Western Conference favorite took a big hit a few days ago when Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook injured his knee and will be out until next season. It’s a huge blow for the Thunder, who lose their second-best player and offensive catalyst. So what does it mean? It means that Kevin Durant is going to have to score at least 40 every night if OKC has any hope of even getting out of the second round this season. We’ll truly see how great Durant is over the next few weeks now that his right-hand man is out.
By foot or by cycle, get moving
It’s been a little more than a year since my SUV died and I promised to report the results as I spent the next 12 months commuting on twos — by foot or by motorcycle.
Burning tires is a very bad deal for western Pennsylvania
Litigation is before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board on the Department of Environmental Protection’s air quality plan for the proposed Crawford Renewable Energy tire-burning plant in Crawford County. The plant is a terrible deal for the Meadville area, as it will emit far more harmful pollutants than its promoters have projected.
WALK TALK: Quarterbacks are still draft focus without elite choices
1 The NFL draft is in just two days, and there are many reports that not one quarterback will be taken until the second round for the first time since 1996. So the draft’s focus has to be on other players/positions, right? Nope. If anything, the lack of an elite QB only heightens the interest in when and who of the signal callers will be chosen first.
We all mourn the loss of Martin Richard — a martyr for freedom
We don’t know whether 8-year-old Martin Richard was killed by a domestic or foreign terrorist at the Boston Marathon. But all Americans tremble in our hearts when we think of the agony experienced by his family, which also endures serious injuries to his 6-year-old sister and his mother.
WALK TALK: A plunking will happen if you crowd the plate
1 The count is 3-2 on San Diego’s Carlos Quentin. A runner is on first during a 2-1 game in the sixth inning and Dodgers starter Zach Greinke is on the mound. Next thing we know, Greinke is checking to see if his collarbone is in its original place after accidentally hitting Quentin, who charged the mound seconds later. I cannot be any more on the side of Greinke and L.A. manager Don Mattingly, who said that Quentin should be suspended for as long as Greinke is injured. Quentin will be back in the lineup after eight days. It may be eight weeks until Greinke returns.
- More Opinion Headlines
- WALK TALK: Vegas, UFC: Here we come