Hunters and anglers have something new to worry about in Washington, D.C.: “sequestration.” This technical term refers to looming automatic budget cuts—scheduled to go into effect in January – as a means of reducing the federal deficit. We’re facing these cuts because the Obama Administration, Senate, and House of Representatives have not been able to agree on a federal budget and pass specific bills to fund the government, while reducing the annual deficit. Without Congressional action to pass a budget and particular spending bills after the election, large automatic across the board funding cuts will be triggered in 2013.
Of particular concern to sportsmen are reductions of Pittman-Robertson (PR) and Dingell-Johnson (DJ) funds to state fish and game agencies. Sequestration of these funds, which provide for hunting and fishing programs all across the country, could be an unintended and disastrous consequence of the process.
For decades, hunters and anglers have paid special federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear with the revenues going to two special federal funds: Pittman-Robertson for hunting and Dingell-Johnson for fishing; PR and DJ for short. These taxes – about $31 million a year to PR and $34 million to DJ — go only to these two funds and the money can be spent only on programs to benefit hunting and fishing. In other words, these funds were purposefully designed to be restricted to ensure that the money was not used to pave roads, build prisons, support Social Security, the Department of Defense, or any other federal program. Furthermore, only the amount of tax revenue that actually goes into each fund can be spent – no money is ever borrowed to pay for PR or DJ projects and no other federal tax revenues support these projects. Because expenditures cannot exceed income, PR and DJ do not contribute to overall spending or contribute to the deficit.