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Timber Talk 11/10/14

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, November 10, 2014

Elections Results
The Ohio elections went pretty much the way the polls and pundits had predicted. Governor Kasich was reelected to a second term by a 64% - 33% margin over opponent Ed Fitzgerald. Incumbents held on to all 5 non-judicial statewide offices. In the House, the Republican majority increased its majority by 5 seats now with a 65-34 margin. In the Senate, numbers remained the same with Republican holding a 23-10 majority. There were two open seats in the Ohio Supreme Court and both seats were won by Republicans Justice Judy French and Justice Sharon Kennedy. In Congressional races, Ohioans maintained the status quo reelecting incumbent Representatives. (For an analysis of the Congressional elections outcome from Neil Ward with the Forest Resource Association, please see this analysis.) As was typical across the country, the Ohio mid-term elections saw low voter turnout with 38% of voters turning out for the general election, which is about half of the turnout for a normal gubernatorial election year.

Tax Discussions on the Table for Next Kasich Budget Plans/October Tax Revenues Up
It appears that following the elections, the administration has plans to continue pushing to decrease income taxes in the next biennial budget. How that will be accomplished has not been made clear yet, but observers indicate it could take place through shifts in business taxes. Some House and Senate members have indicated support for decreased income taxes, but suggested looking for additional revenue through higher sales taxes and property taxes. The Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) most likely will continue to be scrutinized, although some in the legislature has concerns about making changes at this point. A higher severance tax for oil and gas will be a contentious issue, following a House passed bill that the Governor believes does not raise the severance tax enough. On that note, state tax revenues jumped above projections for October due to higher than expected revenues from personal income and sales taxes. Total receipts were nearly 8% or $135 million above projections. With those revenues, the year-to-date intake is 3.3% above projections.

Ohio Department of Taxation Reviewing CAUV Forestland Rates
Earlier we reported that OFA had advised the Department of Taxation the CAUV woodland tax rates did not reflect current costs. The determining formula used woodland clearing and land tiling costs that were sorely outdated and far below current and actual costs (both are set at $500/acre, the same amount when the program was established in the early 1970s.) Last week, the Department of Taxation requested if OFA could assist with determining more accurate and updated estimates of land clearing costs. OFA advised that it would work on that and provide figures at the first chance. OFA will be surveying any member who is involved with land clearing activities or recently had land cleared and can provide information on the cost per acre to do so. Please contact OFA with any information on this if you have any.

Ohio Tree Farm Committee Quarterly Meeting
The Ohio Tree Farm Committee (OTFC) held its fall meeting at the OFA office this past week and discussed a host of topics pertinent to the committee. A few tidbits from the meeting: OFA and the Ohio Tree Farm Committee have completed and signed a sponsorship agreement with the Ohio Forestry Association Foundation and a working Memorandum of Understanding with the Ohio Forestry Association; Division of Forestry representative Cotton Randall reports some possible encouraging news about Thousand Cankers Disease of walnut in Ohio such that some infected walnuts in southwest Ohio are showing signs of recovery. It may not be as virulent as first thought, though scientists caution that more work is needed to verify the situation; Walt and Donna Lange are "retiring” from their long-held positions with the Tree Farm Committee, to which the committee congratulated them for their incredible service; Dan Castelluci, forester with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, will replace Walt on the Paul Bunyan Show Education Committee; Dan was also welcomed to the OTFC along with Alan Walter from the East Central Ohio Forestry Association and Marcus Hoholick from Western Ohio, replacing Bruce Willis; Cotton Randall replaces Tom Berger as the Division of Forestry representative.

Ohio EPA Announces Plan to Rotate Pollution Inspectors
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) Director announced a plan last week to reassign staff to inspect different facilities every few years. Owners and operators of facilities regulated by OEPA received letters indicating they could start to see new inspectors and permit writers this fall. Director Butler said the goal is to improve uniformity of inspections while providing more effectiveness with regulatory oversight. Director Butler indicated that Division and District management will remain consistent. It is expected that Division of Surface Water staff who administer the NPDES stormwater program will rotate about every 5 years, while the Division of Drinking and Ground Waters will rotate every 6 years.

AF&PA Promoting Paper Products
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) is working to promote paper and its value as a sustainable and environmentally friendly product. To that end, it has created a number of awareness products, among them a webpage A day #withpaper as well as a new hashtag #withpaper, in an attempt to use Twitter to promote the key messages. (Check that page to see the brief messages.) Interestingly, marketers of paperless business solutions had created World Paper Free Day on November 6 to tout the benefits of paperless technology. AF&PA independently created the A day #withpaper social media campaign to tout how the quality of life is improved with paper. Along this line, thirty leading North American companies have removed "Go Paperless – Save Trees” Claims due to efforts from the Two Sides Campaign to show that paper is an environmentally friendly product and produced from sustainable forests. The Two Sides Campaign presents many compelling arguments in favor of the use of paper, including jobs benefits, income to forest landowners, the product is from renewable forests, and the environmental footprint of "e-media” is not properly and adequately considered.

Upcoming Events:

  • OFA Board Meeting, November 12, 2014 - OFA Office, Columbus @ 1:00 pm
  • 2015 OFA Annual Meeting, February 11-12, 2015 @ Embassy Suites - Dublin, Ohio "Changing Business Climate in Ohio Forestry and the Hardwood Industry"

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