by Cody McLaughlin - Monday, August 31, 2020
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy targeted gun owners and hunters specifically with more than $6 million in new taxes and fees in his new budget proposal announced last week.
Sportsmen around the state already are pushing back as much of his proposal consists of all too familiar policies that he now claims can help fill the budget holes caused by cratered tax revenue following his management of COVID-19.
The Proposal: Astronomically Higher Fees for Hunters
On Tues., Aug. 25, Gov. Murphy proposed a new budget for fiscal year 2021 that would, among other things, hike gun and hunting permit fees up to 2,000 percent in some cases under the guise of “balancing the budget” during the pandemic. The eye-popping increases are startling and include, but are not limited to:
Regrettably, the increases to the firearms identification card and bear hunting fees are familiar to readers of this site as Gov. Murphy has proposed them for years now. As we said then, “Murphy is pricing out law-abiding, working-class gun owners.”
This kind of tax-and-punish policy is a well-loved arrow in the quiver of the Murphy administration, as cash-strapped New Jerseyans know all too well. In addition to the proposed hikes on gun owners and sportsmen, the governor has made liberal fame across the nation for other radical policies such as hiking up taxes on Airbnb, Uber and others, along with floating yet another gas tax hike. (It was just raised two years ago.) He is now receiving backlash for “taxing the rain.” This new budget proposal is merely more of the same.
Pittman-Robertson Funding In New Jersey
While Gov. Murphy’s new proposals were made under the guise of plugging budget holes caused by the coronavirus this time around, they fail to pass muster upon examination.
As previously mentioned, all funding from hunting and trapping fees specifically must be dedicated to the Hunter and Angler Fund and put back into conservation—Thank you, Pittman-Robertson Act—lest New Jersey risk losing matching funds and eligibility for other federal government funding, which would only deepen the state’s budget crisis.
Meanwhile, these same sportsmen account for more than $1.26 billion in economic activity in the state and more than 16,000 jobs. This translates to much needed outdoor-based economic activity that it would behoove the Governor to encourage rather than discourage.
In our current scenario where the pandemic continues to ravage state budgets, money-hungry budget-makers will be looking for opportunities to “raise revenue”—in other words, to hike taxes and fees—on citizens. It is up to sportsmen to remain vigilant and involved in these discussions to ensure the future of hunting and recreational shooting.
Forcing unemployed and cash-strapped citizens from enjoying a great social-distancing outlet by preventing them from escaping into the outdoors in this time of crisis is more than just bad public policy. It is just wrong.
About the Author
Cody McLaughlin is a wildlife conservationist and conservative thought leader on public policy issues impacting hunting, fishing, gun rights, free-market tax and wage policy and the environment. He works as a GOP consultant for conservative political causes, managing clients’ digital communications and online presence and as a trustee of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance helping to represent the state’s 1.2 million sportsmen in the political arena.
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