WDFW trying to erase $30 million budget shortfall

Staff Writer

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will review budget and policy proposals for the 2019 legislative session when it meets Aug. 9-11 in Olympia.
The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), will meet in the Capitol Room of the Doubletree Hotel, 415 Capitol Way, Olympia. Commissioners also will hear a brief report from WDFW Director Kelly Susewind, who assumed the department's top position on Aug. 1.
WDFW staff will provide commissioners with an overview of the department's proposed capital and operating budget requests for 2019-21 and discuss a long-term funding plan developed with the help of a broad-based advisory group to stabilize funding in the future.
For the two-year budget cycle that begins in July 2019, WDFW is preparing proposals to the governor and Legislature to address an estimated shortfall of $30 million and make additional targeted investments. About two-thirds of the department's proposed budget request would come from the state general fund, while recreational license fees would comprise the remaining third.
WDFW officials attributed a portion of the budgetary shortfall to state funding from general taxes and the sale of recreational licenses has not kept up with the cost of managing fish wildlife and their habitat. It was also noted that recreational license fees have not been adjusted since 2011.
In an effort to save money, spending cuts have been implemented to reduce fish stocking, habitat restoration and the elimination of grants to volunteer organizations.
The department is looking into two concepts for recreational license fee increases: a 12-15 percent across-the-board increase on all license products or a single annual $10 fee to each customer ($3 charge for temporary licenses).
The public can provide input on WDFW's budget and legislative proposals during the Aug. 9 meeting. The commission will convene that day at 12:30 p.m. Commissioners could take action on the proposals during their Friday session, which begins at 8:30 a.m. The Saturday meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.
More information about WDFW's budget shortfall and proposed solutions can be found at https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/budget/development/.
The complete meeting agenda is available at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2018/.