To Top

Vote “No” on AB78: A Tax Hike on Elk Hunters

One of the big lessons I learned as a kid attending a Catholic school in Baltimore is that some people can rationalize anything.  And I mean anything.  Including breaking in the worst of the 10 Commandments.

And with that in mind, it’s time for our biennial visit to the plain English of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, in which candidates promise their constituents that they will “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

AB78 is a tax hike.

The first clue is the fact that the first line of the bill reads: “REQUIRES TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY VOTE.”  By law, any bill that will result in more money going to the government – a.k.a., a tax increase – requires a 2/3 supermajority vote of the Legislature to pass.

Thank you, again, Jim Gibbons!

So anyone who campaigned on not raising taxes, and especially anyone who signed the Pledge, should vote against AB78 because it’s an effort to increase taxes.

Ah, but the tax hiker rationalizers are relentless.  And are able to rationalize any tax hike.  So let’s look at their rationalization arguments in support of AB78.

First, they say it’s not a tax hike, it’s a “user fee.”  And raising a true user fee would not be a violation of the Tax Pledge.  But calling a fee that is not a true user fee a user fee doesn’t change that fact that it’s a really tax.

A true “user fee” is something like the fee you pay to rent out a picnic area in a public park for a birthday party.  You have the option of paying the government a fee to use their facility or you can take your business to a private facility for your birthday party.

Ditto swimming pools.  If you don’t want to pay the fee to use a public swimming pool, you have the option of paying to use a private swimming pool.  THAT’S a true user fee.

A hunting license is a tax, deceptively called a fee, because you have no choice but to buy it from the government.  There is no private sector alternative where you can take your business elsewhere.

Indeed, in 2013 the tax hike rationalizers declared that a proposed increase in justice court fees was a “user fee.”  No, it wasn’t, because you have no private sector alternative.  The government has a monopoly on the court system.

But, say the tax hike rationalizers, it IS a user fee because you can avoid it simply by not hunting elk.

Nice try.

By that logic, the folks who tried to raise the marriage license fee in 2009 could argue that you can avoid the fee simply by not getting married.  Or those who want to jack up the business license fee this session could argue that you can avoid it simply by not starting your own business.

The real question for conservatives shouldn’t be whether or not a hunting license is a tax or a “user fee,” but why a government-issued license to hunt is needed in the first place.  Can you imagine someone telling George Washington and Thomas Jefferson they needed a government “license” to go duck hunting?

Here’s another argument from the elk hunting license hike rationalizers: “The elk hunters want it.”

No, they don’t.

The self-appointed “spokesmen” (lobbyists) for the elk hunters – who love wheeling and dealing in the smoke-filled back rooms with the political power players – want it.

Seriously.  Give me a list of 100 elk hunters and let me call them and ask, “Do you want the cost of your hunting license increased.”  I’d be surprised if two of them said, “Yes.”

The elk hunters want this tax hike?  Really?  Show me the list.  Show me the names.  Show me which elk hunters want the cost of their elk tag hiked.

But let’s say I’m wrong.  I’m not, but let’s pretend.

If you really, really, really believe that elk hunters really, really, really want they’re the cost of their government-mandated hunting license increased, then do the same thing the federal government does when it comes to publicly funding presidential campaigns…


That’s right.  When a hunter goes in for his hunting license, have a place on the application where they can check off, “I wish to donate $5 to pay for the prevention and mitigation of damage caused by elk or game mammals not native to this State.”

If elk hunters truly want this increase, they’ll check off the box in droves, won’t they?

That brings me to another point…

If the elk are causing so much damage to the public lands, shouldn’t ALL of the public pay for the cost of “mitigating” the damage rather than just elk hunters?

And if the elk are the problem, rather than the hunters paying for the privilege of eliminating the problem, shouldn’t we be paying THEM for eliminating the problem?

But, say the tax hike rationalizers, it’s just a small amount.

The Tax Pledge says the candidate will oppose and vote against “all” efforts to increase taxes, just as a marriage vow promises to forsake “all” others.  It doesn’t say you can cheat on your spouse as long as it’s just a small one-night stand.

A promise is a promise.  Make a promise; keep a promise.

AB78 is an effort to increase taxes.  Period.  And it’s not about the “small” amount of the increase per person.  It’s about the cumulative amount of new money going to the government so the government can do more to “help” us.


True conservatives don’t want government to do more with less.  True conservatives want the government to do less with less.  Voting against AB78 is a step in the “right” direction.