Bill would take Permanent Fund money for hatcheries

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Posted: Thursday, April 07, 2005

FAIRBANKS (AP) — A new proposal has surfaced in the Legislature for how to fund construction of a fish hatchery in Fairbanks along the Chena River and improve two hatcheries in Anchorage.

The proposal would take $30 million from the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for the projects. That idea differs significantly from a pair of companion proposals by Interior lawmakers in the House and Senate to add a surcharge to sport fishing licenses to fund hatcheries.

Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, who is sponsoring the bill, said that he does not support adding a surcharge to fishing licenses because it would amount to a new tax.

''I ran on no new taxes,'' the freshman lawmaker said.

Rather than a surcharge, Ramras is proposing to take $30 million out of the state's Amerada Hess account, which holds money from a court settlement with several oil companies. The Amerada Hess account, named after the court case, is part of the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Ramras' bill was to be introduced in the House on Wednesday.

Sen. Ralph Seekins and Rep. Jim Holm, both Fairbanks Republicans, have already introduced proposals on enacting a fishing license surcharge, which would go toward the debt on a bond package to pay for the new hatcheries. The bills call for a surcharge of $8.50 for a resident sport fishing license, which would increase the cost of a fishing license for Alaskans to $23.50.

Nonresident licenses would also go up. A one-day nonresident sport fishing license would go from $10 to $18.50, and an annual license would go from $100 to $145.

Nonresidents would provide the largest portion of the new revenue, bringing in $5.1 million of the total $6.5 million that estimates say the new surcharges could generate, a figure based on the number of licenses sold in 2003.

The Department of Fish and Game pays vendors who sell licenses 5 percent of its revenue, shaving the expected net income from the proposals to about $6.2 million.

Holm said Tuesday he had not seen Ramras' bill but that he's skeptical about how much support there is in the Legislature for using the Amerada Hess account to pay for capital projects. Gov. Frank Murkowski has proposed using the account as a funding source for the capital budget for next fiscal year, but the idea received a cool reception from many lawmakers.

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