Timber increase plan, Gov. warning, gas tax repeal

Forest Policy Briefs
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers

Proposal to Increase State Forest Harvest: at its April meeting, the County Forest Trust Land Advisory Committee heard an industry proposal that illustrated how state forests could be managed for greater timber harvest volume and state revenues.  The Hampton Affiliates-prepared analysis allocated 30% of forest acreage to habitat protections, while still increasing harvest by 100 million bdft/year and generating almost $30 million/year more in revenue to the state and counties.  The analysis was presented as part of a Board of Forestry effort to revise the regulatory purpose of state forests, referred to as the “greatest permanent value” administrative rule.

Governor Warns of State Budget Peril:
Governor Kulongoski in his recent ‘State of the State’ speech warned that Oregon is “speeding toward a budgetary cliff,” where spending outpaces tax & fee revenue collection.  On the eve of the Governor’s last months in office, he now finally acknowledges the dire fiscal dilemma, which Republican legislators have warned of for years.  The $18.3 billion state budget is rapidly overspending the $16 billion in current projected revenues— a projected deficit of $2.3 billion.  This debacle is on the heels of the Democrat’s largest tax increase in Oregon history.

Ballot Initiative Attempts to Overturn Truck/Vehicle Taxes:
The 2009 Legislature passed HB 2001, which implemented sweeping increases in fees and taxes on all Oregon vehicles—a dramatic increase in trucking costs.  Phase 1 increases (1/1/2010) were 50-100% hike in registration fees.  Phase 2 (10/1/2010) will be 25% increase in weight-mile and flat rate fees.  Phase 3 (1/1/2011) will be 25% increase in fuel and gas taxes at the pump.  In an effort to put this tax increase to the voters in the November general election, the ‘Committee to End Highway Robbery’ has organized a ballot measure petition drive—planning to raise funds and gather 110,000 signatures by July 2nd.  For more information online: www.gastaxpetitions.com

Diesel Price Passes $3: The nationwide average price of diesel fuel jumped 7.6 cents to $3.015 per gallon during the first week of April, topping $3 per gallon for the first time since Nov. 2008, according to the US Energy Admin.  The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report put Oregon’s average diesel price at $3.24/gallon on 4/16/10, a 9% month-to-month increase.  Current diesel rates are the 7th highest in the nation.

Oregon Forestry Website Enhanced: In an effort to reach younger audiences who want quicker response time to information searches, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute launched an updated web site March 1st that includes video presentations and enhanced browsing capabilities.  “Oregonforests.org has been a traditional print-oriented web site aimed at forest landowners and the public,” explained Paul Barnum, OFRI executive director.  “To stay current, we needed to offer web users more video content and quicker navigation to printed pieces for those ‘deep divers’ who want more detailed forestry information.”

Loggers in TV Ads About Forestry: The OFRI 2010 educational advertising launch coincides with the updated ORFI web site.  The ads on television, radio and internet contain messages about Oregon’s Forest Protection Act, replanting after harvest, and safeguards for water, fish and wildlife habitat.  One of the TV ads—which run in the Portland and Willamette Valley metro markets—features Oregon loggers Bob and Kirk Luoto, who talk about forest protections during harvest.  OFRI’s educational advertising continues through June. To view the new TV ads and Flash videos visit oregonforests.org.

Health Insurance Mandate Becomes Law: After months of wrangling and back-room deal-making, the Democratic-controlled Congress rammed through legislation in late March, which would effectively nationalize health care and health insurance—1/6th of the US economy— under the federal government over the long term.  What’s not being talked about is that the new law mandates will directly, or indirectly, result in crippling employer taxes, an unconstitutional requirement that every American buy health insurance or face higher taxes, rationing of healthcare by existing providers, huge increases in federal deficit spending for generations, and overall healthcare dysfunction.  Sadly, the bill will do nearly nothing to curb the factors that now escalate heath care costs.

Oregon Democrats Unanimous in Support of Nationalizing Healthcare: Oregon’s congressional delegation voted along party lines, with only Republican, Rep. Greg Walden, voting “no” on numerous measures comprising the national health insurance bill.  The Senate-passed bill cleared the House on votes of 219-212 and 220-211.  All Oregon’s Democrat delegation voted to support the costly bill—Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Representatives Blumenauer, DeFazio, Schrader and Wu.  House Republicans across the US were unanimous in opposition, joined by 34 dissident Democrats.

Port Announces Biomass Plant Plans:
The 900-acre Port Westward Energy Park could bring two new biomass plants, one from Community Energy Systems LLC, and another separate biomass plant to be announced in May.  Both plants will be built on a 124-acres recently purchased from Summit Power Group.  The Port of St. Helens-owned industrial park near Clatskanie, proposes a three-phase project. The first phase would be the construction of a test site producing 3-4 megawatts of electricity from biomass.  The second phase would climb to 25 megawatts, and the third phase would convert wood byproducts to biodiesel.

Oregon Increases Weight on SFI Board: Oregon State Forester Marvin Brown has been elected chair of the 18-member board of directors for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI), which is the industry’s largest forest certification program.  Brown, whose term began March 10, is a member of the board’s social chamber.  Robert A. (Bob) Luoto, who represents independent professional loggers and American Loggers Council on the board, becomes vice-chair of the SFI board.  Board members include representatives of environmental, professional and academic groups, independent loggers, family forest landowners, public officials, labor and the forest products sector.

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