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The wolf at the door!

And Little Red Riding Hood said: “What big eyes you have, Grandma.” The wolf, pretending to be granny, answered: “All the better to see you with!”

Then, the boater said: “What big hands you have.” And a politician, trying not to look like a wolf, answered: “All the better to grab your funds with!”

The problem with children’s stories is that they can mirror reality, or vice-versa. So, beware, the wolf could already be at your door! As most states grapple with serious budget shortfalls, attempts to raid important boating funds and use them to replace general revenue income could happen virtually anywhere, anytime these days.

For example, in California the wolf is already in the door. According to the Recreational Boaters of California (www.rboc.org), Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to wipe out the Department of Boating & Waterways (DBW). The DBW is funded solely by boater fuel taxes, registration fees and interest from boating facility development loans. 

The DBW is a strict user-pay, user-benefit system that receives no general tax dollars. That makes it, and the state’s 3 million boating enthusiasts, a prime target. Correctly, the RBOC has issued a “Call-to-Arms” to all California boaters to fight the proposal. Moreover, since DBW funds are used solely for supporting boating safety, education and facility infrastructure development, it is an issue important to the boating industry at large.

The wolf gets around fast. He’s in Ohio, too. A couple of recommendations or proposals are floating around right now. First, there’s a suggestion that all motorboat registrations fees be raised $5 and the money be transferred to the Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant program. It’s not the first time this kind of idea has surfaced. A few years ago, another wing nut proposed doubling the boat registration fees to fund Ohio hospital trauma centers!

The second proposal in Ohio is even more real – it will be actually be included in the state’s budget bill next month. This one would transfer the state’s Scenic Rivers program from a division that receives general tax revenue to the Ohio Division of Watercraft (DOW) which is solely funded by boaters’ fuel taxes, title and registration fees and federal boating safety grants.

At first blush, a Scenic Rivers program might seem like a fit for the DOW. It’s not! The DOW is an agency mandated to primarily provide boating safety education and law enforcement on Ohio’s waterways. The Scenic Rivers program is a preservation effort concerned with streamside land forestation, stream biota, flora and fauna. Simply put, this proposal may look like granny but it’s really a raid by the wolf! It will be opposed by the Boating Associations of Ohio along with other boating organizations.

Bottom line: In these economic times, boating funds will be viewed by state administrations as available-for-the-taking. Dealers and boaters must stand up in unity to safeguard these funding or be victims of these raids.

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