Timber Industry, Legislators Not Favoring Severance Tax Hike To Fund Forestry

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 60 views 

We’ve brought you extensive coverage of the problems plaguing the Arkansas Forestry Commission, which is laying off 36 workers in January due to a $4 million funding shortfall.

With finger-pointing over who is to blame in the rear view mirror, the attention now turns to solutions.

John Lyon with our content partner, the Arkansas News Bureau, reports:

Now that the issue has been raised, at least indirectly, would the timber industry — or legislators — support a tax hike?

“I think it would take some fairly strong considerations and certainly take a lot of thought to go in that direction, because you’re asking the industry that’s already struggling to come up with additional funding through taxation,” said Max Braswell, executive vice president of the Arkansas Forestry Association.

Braswell said the industry is “interested in seeing the Forestry Commission right the ship” and would be willing to look at a number of options, but “taxing the industry that’s already shown itself to be in dire straits is, I don’t believe, the first option we would want to see.”

Larry Boccarossa, director of the Arkansas Timber Producers Association, said loggers are already being squeezed.

“Close to 30 percent of the logging force has been lost because of not having work out there because the demand’s been down, and the primary culprit has been housing construction. That’s the concern that we have here,” he said.

Timber officials aren’t the only ones who think raising the severance tax on a devastated industry is a bad idea. So do several legislators who have been concerned about the agency’s plight.

No other options — besides tightening the expense belt — seem on the table. Lawmakers will meet Jan. 4 to consider the matter more prominently. You can read more at this link.