DNR Budget Overview –Focus on the General Fund

Just days after Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) appeared to make his prediction of an early spring, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder made a similar declaration that Michigan is emerging from its dark hole, saying “The days of budget peril and government shutdown that plagued Michigan for much of the decade leading up to 2010 are gone.”

Like it or not, for the next 4 months, it’s appropriations season in the Michigan Legislature!

Usually a boring, frustrating, and confusing process all-in-one, Michigan sportsmen and women have often been left on the sidelines during appropriations season since nearly all of our wildlife and fisheries conservation programs run exclusively on user-paid restricted funds rather than the general fund (taxpayer dollars). Instead of battling over general funds with Medicare, prisons, and colleges; conservation programs run only on what our license fees pay for, along with federal matching dollars that come from excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment and a few grants.

This year though, we are looking better—that is if the Michigan Legislature approves the basic outline of Snyder’s budget.

In case you didn’t know (and there seems to be a lot of the public in this dark hole), virtually none of your $9.2 BILLION in general tax dollars go to support outdoor recreation and natural resources conservation in Michigan—instead going to Community Health (30%), Corrections (21%), Higher Education (12%), Human Services (11%), and on down from there. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development get about 1% of the general fund COMBINED.

If Governor Snyder gets his way though (see Executive Budget Recommendation summary), the DNR will see a $7.5 million (38%) surge in general funds coming to fund specific new programs in Fiscal Year 2014 (Oct 2013-Sept 2014). This $27 million in General Fund money in the DNR’s budget would be used as follows:

  • $2 million one-time funding to replace the 65-year old Great Lakes research vessel, the Chinook;
  • $600,000 one-time funding for a Conservation Officer school, to recruit and train future DNR Conservation Officers and $2.9 million in ongoing general funding with a goal to add 25 new officers (16 more officers would also be added if the license fee package also goes through);
  • $3.7 million in ongoing funding to operate Belle Isle as a State Park, if the City of Detroit concurs;
  • Continuing $3 million for the Summer Youth Employment Initiative for at-risk youth;
  • On the aquatic side, there is $100k for cormorant control, $150k for aquatic invasive species, and $350k for dam management/removal grants
  • Continuing support for wildlife disease management, law enforcement, forest management, administration, grants, and communications and customer service.

And still that is all for less than one penny a day per person. Sounds like a good deal!

Next budget topics to talk about on the horizon include:

  • Federal Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Explained
  • Emergency Dredging Dollars
  • Fighting Wildfires in Michigan
  • Fisheries management budget
  • Wildlife management budget
  • Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund

What else would you like to know as this process moves forward?

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