The Oregon Natural Resources Report - Agricultural News from Oregon

Wyden suggests property tax to solve timber county crisis

November 7, 2012

Wyden suggests Oregon timber counties consider raising taxes
By Oregon Family Farm Association

U. S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) suggested that Oregon’s timber counties should consider raising property taxes as part of a strategy to cope with their loss of federal timber subsidies. These counties are poised to fall over a financial cliff when their subsidies expire in a few months. They are already slashing services, and some could face bankruptcy.

The Register-Guard reports that Doug Robertson, chairman of a group of timber counties and a Douglas County commissioner, disagrees with Wyden. He said raising local taxes “isn’t going to be a major topic of discussion.”

“Even in good times it’s hard to raise taxes,” he said.

Right now, tax rates in these counties are among the lowest in the state.

Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader and Republican Rep. Greg Walden have proposed turning the lands controlled by the federal government into quasi-public trusts. One would be managed to produce timber and the other would be for fish and wildlife.

Commissioner Robertson prefers the trust approach, but Wyden notes that there is “general opposition to private management of federal lands in Congress.”

Gov. John Kitzhaber has appointed a 14-member advisory board to come up with a proposal to present to Congress by the end of this year.

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Bob Clark November 7, 2012

Wyden should offer to make federal lands property taxable; otherwise, his proposal seems rather abrasive for the real estate markets and economies of rural Oregon. So, Walden and Defazio are being more constructive.

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