BoatUS said a controversial new “coastal boat fee” that would have made North Carolina boaters pay the highest state-imposed charges on recreational boats in the nation died with the passage of a state budget on Monday.
During debate on the budget the General Assembly was considering legislation that would have imposed an additional fee on all recreational boats 24 feet and longer used in coastal waters, BoatUS said.
The fee also would have applied to out-of-state boats fishing in North Carolina’s coastal waters.
BoatUS and the North Carolina Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus rallied boaters and anglers to sink the effort.
The proposed fee, which comes after a 2013 increase in state boat registration fees, was intended for dredging of waterways and inlets, but in final negotiations on the budget other sources of money were found.
“The fee placed too great a financial burden on recreational boaters, would have chased away out-of-state anglers and have had a negative impact on boater-related spending,” BoatUS government affairs senior program manager David Kennedy said in a statement.
Saltwater recreational fishing accounts for 15,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in annual sales for the state.
The national boating advocacy, services and safety organization generated almost 3,000 comments to state legislators asking them to reconsider the fee, which would have imposed an additional $75 each year on a 25-foot boat. The fee increased on a sliding scale up to $1,300, based on boat length.
In a letter to North Carolina Senate and House leaders, BoatUS president Margaret Podlich said 72 percent of the nation’s boat owners have an annual household income of less than $100,000 and many are highly sensitive to boating cost increases.
BoatUS said the legislation also could have unintentionally ensnared out-of-state boaters who fish as part of their normal cruising and boating activities.
“Dredging waterways and inlets is important, but maintaining them must be a shared responsibility. North Carolina legislators heard boaters loud and clear and wisely dropped the fee,” Kennedy added.
“We’d like to thank state Sen. Norman Sanderson, who represents the state’s second Senate district, for recognizing that recreational boaters shouldn’t bear the sole responsibility and leading his colleagues to the right path. Our thanks also go to the NC Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and Grady-White Boats for their support.”