Photo by Ellen Miller

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Legislators are Barking up the Wrong Tree

As the 2013 Oregon legislature inches toward adjournment House Democratic leaders are looking for creative ways to raise revenue, i.e. taxes, without any Republican votes.

Oregon’s Constitution requires that a “Super Majority” approve bills that raise revenue.[1] This session that means two Republicans have to join all Democrats in both the House and Senate to approve tax increases.

The Democratic leaders most recent strategy, scheme?, is to have the Joint Committee on Tax Credits end some previously approved but not yet utilized tax credits and magically increasing taxes to offset the as yet, unused, tax credits. Sound confusing? Reportedly legislative attorneys have approved the plan.

These pseudo legal shenanigans are completely needless! Raising more revenue and revitalizing rural communities would be two sure-fire results of active forest management of Oregon’s State Forests.

Clatsop & Tillamook State Forests
In northwest Oregon, the former Tillamook Burn forests have failed the Counties that deeded the land to the state 80 years ago following the fires. These World Class softwood forests are embroiled in a decade of changing forest management systems. Meanwhile, these abundant forests with millions of trees planted by school children in the black ash from fires in 1933, 1939 and 1945. The legislature has repeatedly tried to increase harvests from these forests only to be thwarted by the past two Democratic Governors.

Elliott State Forest
The Common School Fund’s Elliott State Forest in southwest Oregon has literally been shut down from a lawsuit environmentalists have filed over the Marbled Murrelet, a seabird that spends that vast majority of its life on the ocean. Although murrelets can fly over freeways, cities and towns at 60 miles per hour, the lawsuit claims the bird will give up and die if it encounters a few harvested trees in the Elliott State Forest.

National Forests
The situation is even worse on federal forestlands in Oregon. Governor Kitzhaber has earmarked $4.6 million to help U.S. Forest Service Collaboratives in Eastern Oregon. The only way the Forest Service can produce timber without ending up stymied by the courts is to utilize collaboratives that include local community “Stakeholders”, environmentalists and timber representatives to develop consensus forest heath restoration projects that may or may not include cutting trees.

Restoring sanity, or scientific forest management, to Oregon’s state and federal forests could alleviate the legislatures’ addiction to more and more revenue while putting hundreds of rural Oregonians back to work at family-wage jobs.

[1] From Greg Miller, Certified Forester:
Article IV.  Legislative powers
Section 25. Majority necessary to pass bills and resolutions; special requirements for bills raising revenue; signatures of presiding officers required. (1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (2) of this section, a majority of all the members elected to each House shall be necessary to pass every bill or Joint resolution.
     (2) Three-fifths of all members elected to each House shall be necessary to pass bills for raising revenue.
     (3) All bills, and Joint resolutions passed, shall be signed by the presiding officers of the respective houses. [Constitution of 1859; Amendment proposed by H.J.R. 14, 1995, and adopted by the people May 21, 1996]

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