Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/02/2004 01:35 PM Senate L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                 SB 322-SALMON ENHANCEMENT TAX                                                                              
CHAIR CON  BUNDE called  the Senate  Labor and  Commerce Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order  at 1:35  p.m. Present  were Senators                                                               
Gary Stevens, Ralph  Seekins, Hollis French and  Chair Con Bunde.                                                               
The first order  of business to come before the  committee was SB
SENATOR BEN STEVENS, sponsor, said he distributed the                                                                           
information that Senator French requested to the committee.                                                                     
CHAIR BUNDE said he understands SB 322 would allow people in                                                                    
various fisheries to tax themselves.                                                                                            
SENATOR BEN STEVENS replied that is correct.                                                                                    
SENATOR  HOLLIS FRENCH  thanked Senator  Stevens for  sending the                                                               
price per pound  numbers to the committee and  said, "Those price                                                               
per pound  numbers were sobering  to a  non-commercial fisherman.                                                               
It was amazing  to see those values flat and  even down over more                                                               
than a decade."                                                                                                                 
He  asked if  increasing the  tax cap  ten times  was an  idea he                                                               
heard from the Joint Salmon Task Force.                                                                                         
SENATOR  STEVENS replied  that the  debate was  initiated by  the                                                               
fact that cost  recovery fish were being required to  pay for the                                                               
operations  of hatcheries.  He did  not  just cook  up the  super                                                               
assessment  idea.  Independent  hatcheries  have  actually  taken                                                               
substantial  steps  in  the  past   and  assessed  themselves  to                                                               
accelerate  their  debt  reduction   program.  However,  not  all                                                               
hatcheries fall under that statute.                                                                                             
SENATOR FRENCH  said his  concern is that  the system  appears to                                                               
have worked for a long time to need such a radical adjustment.                                                                  
SENATOR STEVENS  responded that is  a valid point,  but explained                                                               
that the financial package for  each association is different and                                                               
there are 28 separate hatchery programs.  Each of them has a loan                                                               
portfolio with the Fisheries Enhancement  Revolving Loan Fund and                                                               
is  managed differently.  Some of  the portfolios  have a  higher                                                               
debt  to capital  ratio, for  instance. "The  important thing  is                                                               
this  is  an assessment  that  the  harvesters choose  to  assess                                                               
themselves to pay [down on their debt]. It's all voluntary."                                                                    
He emphasized  that the  rates had never  been adjusted  from the                                                               
time the fund was created in 1976.                                                                                              
SENATOR  SEEKINS  moved  to  pass  SB  322  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note.  Senators                                                               
Stevens, French,  Seekins and  Chair Bunde vote  yea; and  SB 322                                                               
moved from committee.                                                                                                           

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