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Va. senator vows to keep fishing tourney alive

Friday - 12/30/2011, 10:57am  ET

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A Hampton Roads state senator says he's intent on restoring funds to keep the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament alive.

Gov. Bob McDonnell's two-year budget proposal would do away with the state-run program, which primarily is funded by state fishing licenses. The program awards certificates or plaques to fishermen who catch saltwater species that meet a certain length or weight.

The two-employee program, which starts its 55th year Sunday, runs on an annual budget of approximately $200,000.

The Virginian-Pilot ( http://bit.ly/umNE61) reports that Sen. Ralph S. Northam says he'll introduce an amendment to the governor's budget to restore enough funds to keep the awards program active.

"The well-run citation, Expert and Master Angler, and annual species awards programs greatly enhance the draw of fishing in Virginia for natives and visitors alike," Northam said in a release. "That means tourism revenue and jobs, two things that we should be looking to create, not destroy."

Northam said the program, which has averaged about 5,000 awards a year over the past decade, is a huge part of why recreational fishing contributes greatly to Virginia's economy.

"Eliminating this funding is pennywise and pound foolish now and in the long run."

McDonnell did not say why he eliminated funding for the program. Spokeswoman Taylor Thornley said it was an effort to "put together a budget that makes government live within its means."

"The governor's proposed budget reduces costs, sets priorities, and reallocates resources to ensure that the core functions of government: education, economic development, transportation and public safety, are properly funded to rebuild Virginia's economy in the long term," Thornley said.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com


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