New Jersey Governor Targets Hunters in 2021 Budget Proposal

New Jersey Governor Targets Hunters in 2021 Budget Proposal

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:

  • Increasing the one-time fee for the Firearms ID Card from $5 to $100, which is renewed every five years. This, too, is a 1,900-percent increase—or 20 times the current fee.
  • Increasing the Gun Owner’s Permit from $2 to $50, which amounts to 25 times what it costs now.
  • Increasing the tag fee for the black bear wildlife conservation hunt from $2 to $100. That’s an eye-popping 50 times what it costs today. (The hunt is instituted every year to control the state’s exploding black bear population.)
  • Increasing the cost of beaver and otter permits seven months after vetoing a bill in January that would have doubled the number of available permits.
  • Proposing increases in wildlife user fees and claiming they will balance the state budget, though those funds are dedicated to the Hunter and Angler Fund and cannot be diverted as a matter of federal law under the Pittman-Robertson Act.
  • Proposing reversing a 2015 tax break on high-end boat sales in New Jersey.

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.

The NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum website covers news relevant to hunters on the local, national and international fronts. We track how hunters' dollars are spent and we celebrate our long and rich hunting tradition, exposing those who seek to destroy it. Follow on Twitte@HuntersLead.

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.