Help improve House Bill 2379

The Democratic Party of Oregon passed Resolution 2021-01 in support of a Timber Severance Tax! Now HB 2379 Needs Significant Improvements.

The issue:

Timber dependent counties used to be supported by a property tax on the timber when it was cut, called the severance tax which started in 1929.  But the tax was phased out in the 1990’s.

The Severance tax was supposed to be replaced by increased yearly property taxes, but in fact, property taxes were capped.

This led to significant reduction of services in more rural counties with loss of revenue to pay for libraries, schools, roads, law enforcement, water protection, etc.

In addition, much of the private industrial timber land in Oregon is owned by REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and TIMOs (Timber Investment Management Organizations).

  • REITs and TIMOs and most other industrial companies clearcut timber on a short harvest rotation cycle which is bad for forest health, carbon storage, and water quality.
  • REITs and TIMOs earn profits for investment shareholders (primarily outside of Oregon) at the expense of communities where the logging occurs.
  • They have no limitations on exporting raw logs further suppressing mill jobs.

A remedy:

HB 2379 reinstates the severance tax but it needs to be improved!

Improvements to this bill include:

  • REITs and TIMOs should pay their fair share of taxes, as they pay no corporate or personal income tax, or excise tax, in Oregon (unless they pay the 1% Corporate Activities Act if their revenue exceeds $1 million).
  • Small woodland owners (<2500 acres) should have lower rates no more than 1-3%.
  • Reduce to 1% or eliminate the tax if owners have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification or other requirements to ensure:
    • Longer harvest rotation cycles.
    • Promote forest health for carbon sequestration, water quality and quantity, soil quality, species diversity, fire management. (minimal clearcuts and no routine use of pesticides) or harvest rotations of over 80 years.
  • Significant percentage of revenue should be distributed directly to timber counties to be used as they see fit: roads, law enforcement, libraries, mental health care, water protection, etc.
  • Percentage of revenue directed to watershed protection.
  • Remainder to Fire management Fund

Action needed:

  1. Author of HB 2379 is Rep Paul Holvey (HD 8) ([email protected]).  Ask him, Rep Pam Marsh ([email protected]) or Rep. Khanh Pham ([email protected]) on the Revenue committee to revise the bill with more focus on these recommendations (see below under public hearing testimony) and copy your own Legislators.
  2. Public Hearing in House Committee on Revenue on Thursday, April 8 at 1:00 pm.  Send written testimony or give oral testimony by registering online or register by phone: (503) 586-1266.

Feel free to call for more info and send a copy of your testimony to us or write a Letter to the Editor with it.

Catherine Thomasson
Chair, Environmental Caucus