Opinion

A berry good revenue source

One day I was eating blackberry pie as I filled out my Dungeness crab report card, and it dawned on me: The state is losing a lot of money letting me eat its berries for free.

As any outdoorsman knows, the state long ago laid claim to every fish in the sea, every clam in the sand, and every critter on land. But it somehow forgot about the berries, black, blue, and red, that grow profusely in areas where developers have not yet gotten around to developing. In these times of tight government budgets, it may be time to license and tax the berries.

The state did quite well on my Dungeness crab license. Not so many years ago one could catch clams and crabs without a license. But then a fee was imposed which generated enough revenue to regulate the resource so tightly that nobody knows when the crab season is anymore or how many crabs you can catch. The license fees didn’t increase the number of available crabs, but did give decent jobs to a lot of U.W. Fisheries graduates who otherwise would have been squeezing eggs out of salmon in an Alaskan cannery.

The best I can figure is I paid $14 for the crab license, which was just a portion of the $44 charged to try to catch anything in the sea. I caught one keepable crab and I had to report the feat back to the state under threat of a $10 penalty next time I buy a crab license. I doubted that they took the reporting seriously, but later they called my wife and asked her exactly where I caught the crab. Apparently I didn’t fill out the report card completely. Maybe next year they’ll make me take a remedial reporting class before they will sell me a license, or perhaps there will be a knock on my door one night and I’ll be taken away by the CIA (Crab Intelligence Agency) and nobody will ever see my habeas corpus again.

Although I’m annoyed by all the state licenses and fees, I also feel sorry for legislators who will go back to Olympia in January facing a $2.5 billion deficit. Without money to spend, our legislators get despondent and even suicidal. So to keep them all from jumping off the Capitol rotunda, I propose a blackberry licensing fee.

Fees usually start small to prevent the rabble from rioting, so $7 would be fine. Berry pickers would have to wear their berry tags so Department of Wildberry officials could spot them from their cars and airplanes. All the millions of dollars in revenue from licenses, fees and fines could be used to hire U.W. Botany graduates, most of whom are tired of tending bar. They could develop berry zones, berry seasons, berry limits, and berry reporting procedures. With my luck, I’d pay $7, get half a bucket, forget to report it, and end up in jail. But it’s a risk worth taking for the economic welfare of our state bureaucrats.

Community Events, April 2014

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