STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
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Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today to join Senator LOTT in introducing legislation which is of great importance to millions of people throughout the country. The sport fishing and boating communities play a vital role in our Nation's economy, and I am pleased to be working with Senator Lott on legislation that will directly impact boaters and anglers everywhere.
In Wisconsin, anglers and boaters are integral to the State's economy. Our access to the Great Lakes is only a portion of what makes my State an excellent boating and fishing destination. From the Mississippi River to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin encompasses thousands of acres of lakes and rivers; my State is home to more than 1.4 million anglers, and a destination for thousands of boating and fishing related tourists each year. In 2001, approximately $1 billion was spent in the State on fishing related activities, according to a study conducted by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Recreational boating is an equal partner to the sport fishing industry, with more than $526 million being spent in 2003 on powerboats and accessories. As a recreation for residents and draw for tourists, the contribution of water sports to Wisconsin is immeasurable.
Today, Senator LOTT and I are introducing legislation aimed at giving back to the fishing and boating communities. This legislation, however, would not exist if it were not for the leadership of Senator Breaux, who worked tirelessly on boating and fishing issues during his tenure in Congress. In 1984, as a member of the House of Representatives, he worked with then Senator Malcolm Wallop, to create the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund. The trust fund, commonly known as the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund, serves as a collection point for most of the excise taxes attributable to motorboat and small engine fuels, as well as the taxes on fishing equipment. The Wallop-Breaux fund is one of the most successful examples of a ``user pays, user benefits'' program; the excise taxes that are collected into the fund are then used on programs that directly benefit boaters and anglers. The funding is then distributed to States for activities ranging from boating safety education to maintaining our nation's wetlands.
I am dedicated to continuing the legacy of Wallop-Breaux. That is why Senator LOTT and I are introducing legislation that will reauthorize the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund and expand the size of the Fund. The legislation we are introducing today mirrors the Sport Fishing and Recreational Boating Safety bill in the 108th Congress, which was later incorporated in the Senate-passed version of the highway reauthorization bill. Unfortunately, the legislation was not enacted before the end of the last session.
In addition to reauthorizing this important program, Senator LOTT and I are introducing legislation that would recover approximately $110 million per year of excise taxes currently being paid by anglers and boaters. Under current law, only 13.5 cents is sent to the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, which is only a portion of the 18.3 cents that is collected on motorboat and small engine fuels. Restoring the remaining excise taxes will significantly boost funding for the important programs under the Sport Fish Restoration Act. In Wisconsin, this could amount to an additional $3 million annually for fishing and boating activities.
I am very proud to be working with Senator LOTT on this issue. Passing this legislation will be a top priority for me in the 109th Congress. It is an issue that I know is important to the people of Wisconsin: to boaters on the Great Lakes; to the Department of Natural Resources; to anglers on rivers and lakes throughout the state. I can assure every Senator that it is equally important to people in his or her State, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure this legislation's adoption.