News Story

Taxing Canoes and Kayaks

People who hit Michigan's lakes and streams with their kayaks and canoes may have to pay a $5 fee to the state first as a host of bills looking to tax the state's summer activities are under consideration.

There is a bill that would require private canoes and kayaks to attach a registration decal on their crafts for an annual $5 fee.

"It's not the cost," said Dwight Walker of Marshall, who races kayaks. "I want less government in my life, and this is just another government regulation to have control of my life."

House Bill 6319 is the proposal that calls for the $5 fee on private canoes and kayaks. It is sponsored by Rep. Richard Ball, R-Laingsburg.

Ball said the fee was for safety reasons.

Sometimes empty kayaks and canoes come floating down a river, Ball said.

"If there is no number or decal, there is absolutely no way to trace it to check back and make sure that person is all right," Ball said. "You don't want to leave somebody out there. ... The idea here is to have some way to track these people to make sure they are all right. The $5 is not a very big fee. It is sort of an insurance policy for anyone who does canoeing on rivers or on lakes. It is an idea to protect the person in a kayak or canoe with a minimum insurance policy if their craft shows up empty and they don't seem to be anywhere around."

Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the safety concerns could be addressed without a fee.

"Owners of ice fishing shacks are required to display their name and address on the structure, but are not subject to any fee and registration mandate," McHugh wrote in an e-mail. "I'm not recommending that, though, for this reason: If informed of this concern, most canoe and kayak owners would gladly apply similar labels voluntarily, with no new big-government impositions or mandates required. The fact that so often the Legislature's first answer is to tax-and-regulate is one reason many people have concluded that the system is broken and that neither party really represents them anymore."

There's also House Bill 6320, which would have livery owners paying a $5 inspection fee, more than double the customary $2 fee. That bill was sponsored by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit.

Cheri Hunter, owner of Borchers AuSable Canoe Livery, said the fee wouldn't have an impact on businesses and she was in favor of inspections.

"I'm never in favor of any fees going up, but I am in favor of the annual inspection," Hunter said.

Bill Duckwall, owner of Paddling Michigan livery in Marquette, said the $3 increase per boat or kayak is not a big deal to him because he had 40 livery boats.

"I don't know why they want to tax tourism," Duckwall said. "That is what they are doing. Michigan needs tourism. Michigan needs to find their own ways to cut some of the deadwood they have in the state. (They) always tax something and get it from the public. They ought to get it from being more efficient."

The original version of this story was posted online on July 16, 2010.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.