This is an extraordinary story about the manipulation of the legislature to give timber owners a free ride in Oregon . . . from taxes and from regulations. The biggest tax break, the elimination of the Oregon severance tax on private timber holdings, happened in the 1990’s, when few currently in the legislature were serving. And most of those currently interviewed can’t even remember this giveaway that has caused timber towns and counties to lose billions of tax dollars over the years!
This ProPublica headline says it all:
Big Money Bought Oregon’s Forests Small Timber Communities Are Paying the Price
To make matters worse, corporate publicists have diverted the blame for this impoverishment, blaming environmental protection rules regarding the spotted owl, salmon, and other endangered species. And this cover up has in turn helped deepen the so-called rural-urban divide, when in fact all Oregonians have a stake in protecting our environment and ending this corporate tax giveaway.
Now it’s time to get our legislators to act.
This Oregon timber taxes story is BIG. And of course, it’s tied to political donations. “Oregon lawmakers take more money from the industry than in any other place in America.” As of Monday, no legislators had reached out to the reporters, a team from OPB, the Oregonian and ProPublica.
“Polluted by Money”, last year’s equally deep and detailed investigative reporting series got legislative action for campaign finance reform since that Rob Davis series. The most important of which was a legislative referral to the November 2020 ballot for a constitutional amendment that – if we pass it – will make explicit in the constitution the long debated question of whether the state constitution allows rules regulating money in politics. See here for a summary of what campaign finance reform passed in the 2019 session.
Get outraged, and send your legislators a message asking them to address the longstanding timber tax issue. It tells how big money bought up private forestland in Western Oregon and how those investment companies benefited from long-forgotten tax breaks that ultimately cost these rural communities billions.
If you prefer listening to reading, Think Out Loud did a 20 minute segment Monday with two of the reporters.
Will there be legislative action?
Maybe… if you help push.