A Tax in Sheep's Clothing?

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, Jan. 23, 2004 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) appears to be successfully moving SB 557 through the Senate after amending it on January 7th. SB 557 proposes placing a “fee” on lumber produced within the state at the point of purchase on a per board foot basis. Funds collected under this “fee” would be used for timber restoration and fire risk reduction, review of timber harvest plans, the removal of dead and diseased trees in southern California, and creation of new environmental programs.

The bill was amended to exclude lumber purchased from out-of-state sources. The state timber industry and lumber retailers have a number of problems with this bill:

* Not all retailers, furniture manufacturers, etc. are set up to assess a “fee” on a per square foot basis;
* The fee penalizes California lumber, further damaging an industry which has decreased to a small fraction of its former presence;
* According to the industry, if imposed, the revenue generated from the fees will be less than the $20 million because what's left of the industry in California will disappear;
* It would be more beneficial to re-examine the timber harvest plans review process and simply reduce the cost of implementation; and
* It’s not fiscally responsible to fund new programs when so many current core programs in education, health care and transportation are being cut.

Kuehl has reportedly dropped the one cent per board foot across the board “tax” temporarily to get the bill out of the Senate. The “skids are greased” and passing from the floor appears to be a sure thing. However, industry representatives hope to attack the bill in the Assembly where Kuehl is expected to go after out-of-state sources of lumber for additional revenue. Eighty percent of the lumber used in California is already coming in from outside. There is little doubt that this bill is a tax.
Read more Environmental Impacts articles

Capitol updates archive 989898989