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Finance panel votes to eliminate two dozen DNR customer counters

The state Department of Natural Resources is one step closer to removing its customer counters at two dozen field offices.

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 Tuesday to end the sales of hunting and fishing licenses at the field offices.

Gov. Jim Doyle said the 51 counter employees would move into other vacant DNR jobs.

It would cut just more than $3 million from the state's $5 billion deficit over the next two years.

DNR officials say the move makes sense, because more people use the Internet to buy their sporting licenses.

About 1,500 private shops will still sell them in person, along with counters at the six DNR regional offices and the Madison headquarters.

Rep. Gary Sherman, D-Port Wing, voted for the closures, but he said state government is shrinking in northern Wisconsin.

He said those who got licenses at the Superior field office will now have to drive to Eau Claire.

Sen. Luther Olson, R-Ripon, said the service counters were "one of the few places a person can deal with the DNR and not get a ticket."

The finance panel also voted to raise boat registration fees by an average of 15 percent.