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Tax Fairness Oregon says the elimination of taxes on private timberland logging has been costly to small Oregon towns.

PMG FILE PHOTO: - Floyd Walker, a timber sale administrator for the Clackamas River Ranger District of the Mt. Hood National Forest, inspects a load of logs gathered by Timberline Helicopters crews.A nonprofit advocating for the reinstatement of previously eliminated taxes on Oregon's private timberland is holding a virtual town hall to discuss the issue with Washington, Columbia and Yamhill counties.

The town hall will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2.

It is hosted by Tax Fairness Oregon, a group seeking to bring more equitable tax policy to Oregon since 2003, according to the group's website.

The group states on its website that Oregon has 39% more forestland and cuts 46% more timber compared to Washington state, but Washington collects three times more in taxes that go to supporting timberland communities than Oregon.

Tax Fairness Oregon points to recent reporting by The Oregonian/OregonLive, Oregon Public Broadcasting and ProPublica that shows how timber companies have saved $3 billion in taxes since Oregon phased out what's called a "severance tax," which taxes the value of logged trees. House Bill 3575 phased out the tax in 1999.

The reporting pushes back on the long-asserted argument by the timber industry that the economic decline of small, timberland towns in Oregon was a result of environmental regulations, not tax cuts, that limited logging on private timberlands.

Half of the 18 counties that produce the most timber in Oregon lost more money from tax cuts on private forests than from the reduction of logging on federal lands, the reporting showed.

Tax Fairness Oregon argues that the reduction in tax revenues to small timberland towns has not only spurred their economic decline but also left them less able to deliver essential public services and address ailing drinking water systems, which are also impacted by environmental damage from logging.

The group held the first of its virtual town hall series with Hood River, Wasco and Clackamas counties on Monday, Nov. 23.

After the town hall for Washington, Columbia and Yamhill counties, the group will hold four more for other counties around the state.

The town hall Dec. 2 will include comments from Jody Wiser, a tax policy expert at Tax Fairness Oregon, and Richard Felley, a retired water district manager and past director Tillamook Estuaries Partnership.

People can register for the event on Zoom here.


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