February 21, 2009

Bristol gun club up in arms over budget proposal

From left to right: Ralph Milano, Mickey Goldwasser, Roald Erling, and Bob Casar.  

Gov. Jodi Rell’s efforts to trim game stocking programs and raise fees for hunters have a local gun club up in arms.

Members of the Jacklin Rod and Gun Club – a private association that’s been around since 1913 – are urging state officials to back off from plans they fear would reduce or eliminate the various game stocking programs.

Gov. Jodi Rell’s proposed budget calls for special funds – including money that comes from licenses whose revenues pay for programs such as pheasant stocking – to be folded into the general fund.

While that doesn’t necessarily mean fewer dollars for game stocking programs, club members and other sporting groups across the state fear that politicians won’t put enough value on preserving the programs to keep them funded.

“How long will people buy licenses and pheasant tags if nothing is stocked? The money for the general fund will cease to exist. Taking that money is fraud!” Jacklin’s treasurer, Joel Wulff, wrote in a letter to the governor last week.

Wulff said he’s been a member of Jacklin since 1965 and has been a member of the Bristol Fish & Game Club even longer. Between the two clubs, which are across the street from each other, “at least 1,000 acres of land are held in a natural state to the benefit of all,” Wulff wrote.

“Recreation is a key to survival for every person,” Wulff said. “Reducing the funding for recreation cannot be seen as a good thing.”

In fact, he wrote, it would be stupid.

Jacklin “is on private land and receives no funds from the state. The club pays more taxes on its' land and collected dues than it does on actually stocking birds and fish. This is beyond a fair share and to further cut recreational activities, add additional regulations or raise fees for such related services just plan adds to the burden,” said Mickey Goldwasser, a member.

“Clubs like Jacklin are a national treasure,” said Bob Casar, another member.

“Membership spans generations and club members treat each other like family. We work hard to ensure we admit responsible stewards of the environment to the club and in so doing we protect green space for generations to come,” he said.

“Lastly we police our own membership to maintain compliance with federal, state and local laws and to ensure a safe experience for club members, guests, and neighboring landowners alike,” Casar said.

Wulff said another proposal, which would “place recreational shooting ranges under state police control and apply a noise standard for their continued existence,” is also a bad idea.

“Our club, among many in the state, has carried on the use of firearms on its premises for a long time, since 1913 in our case.  We are all obliged to be sure that any range is operated safely,” he said.

“This is an assault on the basic rights of citizens as established when we threw off the yoke of colonial status” back in 1776, Wulff said.

Wulff said he hopes “that our state will not pursue these disastrous actions in its attempts to meet the needs of the moment.”

“Connecticut, as the land of steady habits and the Constitution State, has a long and noble heritage,” he said. “It is the hallmark of any republican entity to meet the needs of its citizens in a straightforward manner. These items suggest a rob Peter to pay Paul style of governance.  It is not encouraging.”

What you can do

The governor’s budget is merely a starting point in the negotiations with the General Assembly. A final spending plan won’t be finished until June, if it’s done on time.

Legislators will have a say about what eventually finds its way into the state’s next two-year budget so if you want to influence their decision, let them know what you think.

You can find the names, email addresses and phone number of state senators and state representatives on the General Assembly’s website at cga.ct.gov.

Here's a copy of Wulff's letter to Gov. Jodi Rell:

Dear Governor Rell:

I have been involved in outdoor recreational sport activities for as long as I can remember.  Hunting, fishing, and hiking have all been part of my life and brought a great deal of benefit to me.  I fully understand that the current state of the economy is causing a crimp at all levels.  I applaud your efforts on behalf of the tax paying citizens of our fair state.  I am troubled by the cut backs that are proposed for the recreational activities listed earlier.  The backdoor move to regulate shooting activities is just, plain wrong.

The sportsmen and women of our state represent an important segment of the population.  These outdoor interests cross all lines of the population.  If they share one thing in common, it is a love and reverence for our natural heritage and the age-old pursuits of a free people.  These are people who support conservation and the environment at a real and personal level.  Through dues paying membership in rod and gun clubs across the state, they hold thousands of acres of land in a natural condition.  If the current focus on being “green” has any relevancy, these good folks are paying the dues to clubs in order to pay the taxes on the land they own.  The state does provide some help via the forestry classification for some of these lands, but the burden is still heavy.  Worse, the state extracts a 10% levy on the dues the clubs collect.  

As treasurer of this club, I have first hand experience with these costs.  Our annual expense for taxes, both property and dues, is budgeted at $14,550.00.  This is out of a total budget of $50,730.00.  We budget $9,600.00 for stocking birds and fish.  That should tell you something.  We hold about 130 acres including a 20+ acre pond.  Since we are a private club, we receive no funds from the state.  Taxation of the dues has always struck me as being fundamentally wrong.  Why should a citizen be taxed above and beyond income and sales taxes simply because of membership in an organization?  

That last speaks to a long standing gripe.  The proposals now being considered will reduce or eliminate the various game stocking programs across the state.  It sounds like the fees from sporting licenses that self fund sporting programs will also be side-tracked to the general fund.  How long will people buy licenses and pheasant tags if nothing is stocked? The money for the general fund will cease to exist.  Taking that money is fraud!  

Recreation is a key to survival for every person.  It comprises the things we do to enable us to do the things we must.  We must have a source of income and that means work.  Providing the necessities of life is always a struggle for the vast majority of the people.  Thoreau said it best, Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
Reducing the funding for recreation cannot be seen as a good thing. Redirecting the self funding revenue to the general fund, I already called it fraud. There is no stronger word except stupid! 
I wish I could stop here, but I can’t. Another proposed piece of legislation wants to place recreational shooting ranges under state police control and apply a noise standard for their continued existence. I expect this is “feel good” politics without thought to both sides of the issue. Our club, among many in the state, has carried on the use of firearms on its premises for a long time, since 1913 in our case.
We are all obliged to be sure that any range is operated safely. I expect this has eliminated ranges over the years as development encroached on down range safety. The bad side of this proposed change is to provide “due process” for an uncompensated taking of the rights guaranteed under the “takings clause” of the U. S. Constitution. This is an assault on the basic rights of citizens as established when we threw off the yoke of colonial status beginning on
July 4, 1776.  Law has typically “grandfathered” rights of this kind.  A fellow citizen moved into the area with the understanding that these activities were existent and would continue.  The proposed change strikes at the heart of what it means to be an American and must be resisted in the strongest ways. 

Beyond being a citizen, who am I to request your attention to these issues?  I will try to be brief.  I hold BS and MS degrees from CCSC/CCSU.  I have been a Republican for most of my life.  In 1948 I did favor Harry Truman because “I liked the way he talked.”  I was in kindergarten and beat all the pundits.  I have served on the Bristol Republican Town Committee from time to time.  I served as treasurer for Michael Werner in many of his campaigns for Councilman and Mayor of Bristol and also in runs for State Senator and Secretary of the State.  I also did treasurer duties for Alfred Morrocco in campaigns for Judge of Probate in Bristol.  I have been a JP for some years, although I have taken myself off the list recently.  I had the honor to serve as a commissioner on the Board of Water Commissioners for Bristol for 24 years, 23 as chairman.  During that time the Bristol Water Department continued cooperation with the DEP to enable upland game hunting, deer hunting, and use of Blue Trail segments that crossed the 4,000+ acres of our watershed.  

I have been a member of Jacklin since 1965 and a member even longer at the Bristol Fish & Game, which is literally across the street.  Between these two clubs at least 1,000 acres of land are held in a natural state to the benefit of all.  I have served Jacklin as secretary, director, and since 1980, as treasurer.  

It is my sincere hope that our state will not pursue these disastrous actions in its attempts to meet the needs of the moment.  Connecticut, as “the land of steady habits” and “the constitution state,” has a long and noble heritage.  It is the hallmark of any republican entity to meet the needs of its citizens in a straight forward manner.  These items suggest a rob Peter to pay Paul style of governance.  It is not encouraging. 

I thank you for your time given to reading my letter.  I hope you will find the way to meet the needs of what must be done without penalizing the many sportsmen and sportswomen in the state we all inhabit. 

Be well, 

J.      B. Wulff, Treasurer



*******
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have they offered any alternatives?

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

>>Have they offered any alternatives?

They don't need to.

The programs in question are totally self-funding most years via the licensing fees paid by those that use them.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Don't these clubs have boards? Did you ever think that you should use the board to come up with ideas for fundraising? Every club, association and/or organization needs to go out and find their own funds besides relying on the generousity of the State to fund you. Get with the times. There are no more free lunches.

Concerned Conservative said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Little Green Chips said...

WestConn...typically I agree with much of what you post on this site, however you're off base on this one.

Self funded programs are simply that - self funded. The state merely acts as a middle man here... they issue licenses, collect the revenue, and then use the funds to stock state lands, fisheries and enforce environmental regulations. Cash in, cash out, never touching the general fund. To force outdoorsmen and conservationists to seek general fund money is silly when the current program works perfectly - particularly given these economic times. Funding is directly proportional to the revenue generated from licensing. More hunters and fishermen = more money into the fund, thus more money for stocking.

Further, the biggest point you're missing is that clubs like Jacklin, Bristol Fish & Game, Wolcott Landowners, etc. are ALREADY contributing to the general funds of the state adn cities, with no money back, through property taxes and the tax on membership dues, not to mention permitting fees for liquor sales, foodservice and the like. This is in addition to the sales tax that our outdoorsmen and women pay shopping for equipment at Dick's, Cabela's and other outfitters, which also goes toward the general fund.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Little Green Chips said...

Anonymous... Perhaps you're mis-reading the article. The clubs totally self-fund hunting and fishing activities that occur on their property. Licensing revenue funds stacking of birds and fish on state controlled lands and waterways. The clubs aren't complaining because we're loosing money- we're looking out for the majority of outdoorsmen that choose not to join a club - and are now going to be impacted because the state has proposed limited funding for outdoor recreation.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the club is only giving to the state through taxes paid, etc. We would never expect the state to provide for us!

Bag of Green Chips said...

February 22, 2009 6:52 PM

You totally missed the point. Try reading the article again. No one is asking for a free ride here. In fact groups such as Jacklin are paying more than their fair share.

Anonymous said...

Cazar's got a gun.....(sung to that areosmith tune),

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Shut down your club: that will show the state who is boss!

Anonymous said...

Steve,
The article in the press today? Really? It's not just about hunters, and no one is quoted as "up in arms" or "angry". Poor choice of words on your behalf. Is it your goal to portray people in a negetive light? The news channels covered the Governor's plan as well and did not make it look like those that enjoy the great outdoors are a bunch of crazed gunman.
Disappointed - I usually enjoy reading things you write.

Steve Collins said...

Merriam-Webster's definition of "up in arms" -

"aroused and ready to undertake a fight or conflict (voters up in arms over the proposed law)"

That seems to me to be right on the money. I's an old phrase in the language that's still in common use and it doesn't imply they're going to go shoot someone or that anybody's a crazed gunman. And I don't think there's anything negative about it all.

Anonymous said...

They are going to need those guns and ammunition once the current administration gets to a full head of steam .

So , I don't think wildlife is in danger of being deminished by hartford .