Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Legislature, Arway Battle at Crossroads Job Hangs in Balance in Fight over Funding

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Legislature, Arway Battle at Crossroads Job Hangs in Balance in Fight over Funding

Article excerpt

For eight years, John Arway has been a vocal advocate for increasing funding for the Fish and Boat Commission. As executive director he's trimmed spending, shelved projects, shrunk staffing, introduced new funding ideas and practically begged the state legislature to allow anglers and boaters to keep the agency afloat by raising their license fees, a move that internal polling shows is supported by license holders.

But in the last three months, key lawmakers have said the greatest single obstacle to increasing Fish and Boat funding is John Arway. When members of House and Senate Game and Fisheries committees return to Harrisburg next week, one of their first actions may be placing a term limit on Arway's job that will force him out.

"It didn't have to be that way," said Keith Gillespie, R-York, chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee. "I told him on more than one occasion, I'm on your side, but if you want this to get done you have to ratchet it down a bit."

But last fall, when commissioners instructed Arway to cut $2 million from the agency's budget, he threatened to close trout hatcheries that stock streams located in the districts of legislators he believed were dragging their feet on a funding increase. A map pointing out the legislative districts and streams that would be denied fish was posted briefly on the Fish and Boat website.

"It backfired, and I told him it would," said Patrick Stefano, R-Fayette, chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee. "I said, before you do anything make sure you talk with me first, because things might be going on that you don't know about. But once he made the threat he couldn't pull it back."

Stefano said despite eight years of good work, that single statement, perceived by lawmakers as a political threat, turned much of the Legislature against him.

"I'd like to see his math on that," said Arway. "I get calls from legislators on both sides of the aisle telling me I still have their support."

Originally from North Huntingdon, Westmoreland County, Arway was Downtown Friday to address the Pittsburgh Sportsmen's Luncheon Club.

"The [lawmakers] on the committees, they know their fishing constituents wouldn't mind a license fee increase. …

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