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Timber Tax Proposals--March 18 LWVLC Meeting by Jean Cowan

At our March 18 membership meeting, Jean Cowan will lead us in a conversation about some pending legislative proposals to increase timber taxes. Watchdog and activist groups, spurred by reporting in the Oregonian, ProPublica and Oregon Public Broadcasting, have generated legislation that is taking a serious look at Oregon’s timber taxation system – and a complicated system it is!

Currently, five different bills have been heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources (HANR) Committee, chaired by Representative Brad Witt. Jody Wiser of Tax Fairness Oregon will summarize her organization’s proposals for change during our March 18 meeting. Jean will detail the bills currently being considered. A representative from the timber industry has also been invited but is not yet confirmed.

To date, the HANR committee has held four hearings on this issue. Two were informational, looking at Oregon’s extraordinarily complex history and current system of timber taxation. The committee members heard from speakers supporting the reinstitution of a severance tax, as well as those representing the timber and forest industry, counties (who had, in the past, gained considerable revenue from timber harvests) and local special districts (such as fire and water providers).

Chair Witt has voiced his commitment to a review of the timber tax system to assure that it is equitable and sustainable – and to determine if changes are warranted. During the hearings, however, he has been challenged to keep all the presenters focused on the taxation issue alone. Testimony often included opinions about other forest management practices as well.

Members might be interested in a Guest Column by Arnie Roblan and Caddy McKeown published in the Oregonian on Feb. 7, 2021. They review a “groundbreaking agreement between 13 timber and forest products entities and 13 environmental organizations. Known as the Private Forest Accord, “this collaborative environmental effort is moving forward in lieu of the divisive ballot measures, litigation and contentious legislation of the past.” During the committee’s informational hearings, HANR heard testimony supporting the continuation of these “delicate” negotiations and noting that this effort has generated “new laws to restrict helicopter applications of pesticides on forest land with new protections for homes, schools and drinking water…” and remains committed to continuing forest management discussions.

Join us for a lively and informative conversation about proposed new legislation, including HB 2379, sponsored by Representative Paul Holvey, who has been working and researching this issue for many years. HB 2357 has also been introduced with the goal of eliminating the Oregon Forest Research Institute (OFRI) of the and the Oregon Forest Resources Institute Fund.

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