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Budget Leaks Leave Maines Shellfish Out of Water

US - Faced with the difficult decision to either cut key programs or raise license fees at the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), Governor John Baldacci on Monday directed Commissioner George Lapointe to come up with a better idea.

According to TheEllsworthAmerican, back in August, Baldacci called for a 10 per cent across-the-board cut in state agency budgets for each of the next two fiscal years. The news agency claims that in response to that directive, the state commissioner of administrative and financial services, Ryan Low, ordered DMR to reduce its general fund budget by $1,067,233 in fiscal 2010 and by $1,087,387 in fiscal 2011.

In October, Lapointe offered Baldacci and the incoming Legislature a pair of unpalatable options for reducing DMR’s reliance on state funding. TheEllsworthAmerican news item claims that the first would effectively shut down Maine’s $50 million shellfish industry. "The second would increase the fees already hard-pressed lobstermen and other members of the fishing industry pay for their licenses by approximately 25 per cent."

Lapointe wasn’t happy with either alternative but they reflected, he told the news agency, “our little microcosm of the incredibly tough budget decisions before our state.”

On Monday, Baldacci made it clear that he wasn’t happy either. Saying that neither cutting programs nor raising license fees was acceptable, the Governor called on the DMR commissioner to “sharpen his pencil” and come up with reductions in the agency’s administrative costs to meet the budget goals. Calls to Lapointe seeking his response to the Governor’s directive were not returned by press time.

the Fish Site Editor

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