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Timber Talk 7/15/13

Posted By John Dorka, Monday, July 15, 2013

Ohio Legislative and Policy News

Article on State Budget - Here is an article on the results of Ohio’s newly passed state budget. We’ve passed along information on the budget in the last several weekly reports. Here are a few of the highlights again from the article:

  • Individuals will receive a 10% personal income tax cut over the next 3 years, starting with 8.5% this year, 9% next year, and 10% the year after;
  • The state sales tax increases from 5.5% to 5.7% starting in September;
  • The State will no longer pay the 12.5% property taxes on renewal levies. Those fees will be paid locally if they are approved;
  • Small businesses will get a 50% tax deduction on up to $250,000 of business income but increases commercial activities tax payments for businesses with more than $1 million in sales (see a related story from Cincinnati about the impact of the cut on small businesses;
  • There is a task force created to review all state lands and determine to develop an inventory and study use of property to determine if it can be used more productively;
  • You’ve probably already seen that speed limits on rural highways has been increased to 70 mph and some limits on other rural roadways have increased.

Other Budget News:

  • Spending Increase - The budget shows rather significant spending increases for each of the next two years, increasing 9.4% in 2014 and 4.7% in 2015. Because of these increases, several Republican members voted against the biennium budget.
  • Fees - As tax increases have become politically difficult in recent years, fees for government services have become an alternative in some cases to balance books. There were a few new fees added in this budget but for the most part, most fees were re-authorized for the next 2 years. The OEPA had the most action on fees. There were no increases, but the budget extended the sunset on more than a dozen fees most of which were started in the 1990s. Included were fees for disposal of solid waste and construction and demolition debris, on new tire sales, and permitting and application fees for water and air pollution. Authority was given for ODNR to collect a new $2500 permit fee for storing, treating, and recycling oil and gas brine.

Rainy Day Fund Increased - The Kasich Administration deposited nearly $1 billion into the Ohio’s "rainy day fund” this past week, as part of the overall budget package which was recently passed. The actual amount was $995.9 million and increased the fund to $1.48 billion, the maximum allowed according to state law (5% of the overall budget). This is the largest amount in the rainy day fund in Ohio history. An end-of-year Ohio revenue surplus of nearly $2 billion allowed the legislature and administration to take this action. It has become regular political comment that the previous administration had drained the rainy day fund and left "$0.89” in the fund as the next administration came on board. On an additional note, Ohio owes the federal government $1.4 billion for an unemployment compensation fund loan. Excess state funds can be used to pay down the interest, but the principal will be paid down by businesses.

Legislature on Summer Recess  - The legislature now takes a break from the heavy session dealing with the state budget and numerous other issues. But it appears that they will meet later this year for several weeks to address ongoing issues, the most contentious of which is an expanded/reformed Medicaid Program.

"Revised” Farm Bill Passes House
The US House of Representatives passed a different version of the Farm Bill last week, splitting out the traditional farm-only programs from the food entitlement programs, which have comprised the vast majority of the Farm Bill funding. The bill passed narrowly on a largely partisan line, 216-208. No Democrats voted in favor of the bill and 12 Republicans voted against it, and all of Ohio’s delegation voted along party lines. In an unusual move, House Speaker John Boehner (OH-8) voted for the bill, as Speakers don’t usually vote on bills. Although the bill passed the House, it would have to go back to the Senate for passage and be signed by the President, neither action of which is likely. The lack of inclusion of the Food Stamp program became a highly contentious issue and caused the usual partisan divide in the vote. Included in this version of the bill is an end to farm commodity subsidies. Of special note for forestry and the forest products industry is the inclusion of terms from the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act which would permanently exempt logging roads from Clean Water Act NPDES permitting. Also included is language from the USDA’s Biobased Markets Program which would define forest products as "bio-based” for labeling purposes and federal procurement programs.

Division of Forestry to Host Open Houses for State Forest Management Plans
The following is a statement from the Gongwer Statehouse News Service on upcoming State Forest Management Open Houses. OFA members in the area of these open houses are encouraged to attend and share their feelings about the value of the DOF "working forest” plans on state forests.

  • The agency said this week it would soon be hosting three open houses to encourage public participation in state forest management plans. "Each year the ODNR Division of Forestry hosts open houses for interested citizens and neighbors to display planned forest management projects for the upcoming year," Robert Boyles, state forester and chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry, said. "These proposed projects include timber harvesting, prescribed burning, timber cruising, treating invasive species, recreation trails and facility maintenance." The open house schedule is as follows:
  • Maumee State Forest open house: 4 to 7 p.m. July 30 at the Maumee State Forest Headquarters, 3390 County Road D, Swanton. For more information, call 419-822-3052.
  • Southern District State Forests open house: 4 to 7 p.m. July 31 at the Chillicothe District Office, 345 Allen Ave., Chillicothe. For more information, call 740-774-1596.
  • Mohican-Memorial and Eastern State Forests open house: 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 1 at the New Philadelphia Ohio Department of Transportation District Office, 2201 Reiser Ave., New Philadelphia. For more information, call 419-938-6222.

OFA Meets with "Ag in the Classroom” Participants at Farm Bureau
The Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) hosted a meeting of trade associations and commodity groups to discuss strategies for working together on promoting agriculture commodities among youth and Ohio’s public. OFA shared its relationship with the Ohio Project Learning Tree (PLT) Program as well as its work through the annual OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp. From participants in the group, PLT is well recognized around Ohio as a top-notch conservation education program.

Ohio Project Learning Tree Receives (PLT) $5,000 from OEPA Environmental Education "Mini-Grant”
On the note of PLT, congratulations to the Ohio PLT program for being a successful recipient of a $5,000 grant from the OEPA Educational "Mini-Grant” Program. OEPA approved funding of $58,345 for 14 projects one of which was PLT. The grant will support conducting 6 regional workshops to train 90 teachers on forestry and natural resource issues in Ohio.

Indiana Lumbermens Mutual (ILM) and Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual (PLM) Announce Plans to Affiliate Companies
Last week, ILM and PLM announced plans to affiliate their companies which will result in shared management, services and pooled reinsurance. Here is a news release from their public relations company announcing the plans. This announcement follows indicators over the last year portending changes with wood industry insurers, especially with those in the sawmill business.

National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Newsletter Article on the Steel Valley Loggers Chapter
The most recent issue of the NACD Newsletter contains an article on the Steel Valley Loggers’ Chapter and the relationship the Jefferson SWCD has with the chapter. It is a good article and shares the value of the good working relationship between the SWCD and the loggers in the chapter.

Oregon Loggers Fighting Back
It appears that Oregon is closing to passing a new law that will allow loggers to sue environmental activists who block logging operations. The bill has been passed by both the Oregon House and Senate and is expected to be signed by Governor Kitzhaber. In essence, the law allows logging companies who have contracts for state land timber to sue activists for financial damages when activists obstruct or sabotage their logging operations. You can read more about the bill in this article.

New Truck Weight Sensor System
OFA received this information on a new Truck Weight systems using wireless sensors that offer a low cost alternative to traditional systems. Here is a news release from Truck Weight, the company that provides the new equipment. According to the release, the equipment is particularly useful for off-road and severe service use trucks in a number of configurations. In addition, it offers a low-cost alternative that is relatively easy and simple to install. Note that OFA is providing this for information only and is not endorsing this equipment or company.

Plans for New 700 MW Gas-Fired Power Plant Announced as AEP Announces Plans to Retire 585 MW coal-fired Beverly Plant
There were 2 key announcements last week concerning state energy production that indicate the vastly changing landscape in energy production in Ohio. Carroll County Energy, a subsidiary of Advanced Power Services Inc., a Boston-based company, announced plans to build a gas-fired plant in Carroll County in the heart of Ohio’s gas drilling boom area. The Ohio Power Siting Board has not yet approved plans for this facility, it recently approved plans for a 799 MW gas-fired plant in Oregon and signed-off on plans to expand another gas-fired facility to 1,414 MW in Vinton County. PUCO Chairman Todd Snichtler said that in spite of the recent activity to build new gas-fired plants, coal will continue as an important energy fuel source in Ohio for some time to come. Where economically feasible, current coal-fired plants will be retrofitted with pollution scrubbing technology. But it is less feasible for smaller facilities and these are the ones that will be targeted for decommissioning.

OWIN Summer Meeting Quickly Approaching
The OWIN Summer Meeting will be next week, on July 24-25 in Chillicothe with Wednesday activities at the Christopher Conference Center and then golf and clay shooting at facilities south of Chillicothe. You can see the agenda and register for the event at the OFA website. For those interested in attending the tour, a bus will leave the Christopher Conference Center at 1 pm on July 24 and travel to the OSU South Centers in Piketon for a short presentation and brief tour of the facilities, to learn about training opportunities for the Ohio wood industry. It will then proceed to the Glatfelter Merchandising Yard directly behind the OSU facility to view Glatfelter’s operations and talk about new opportunities with wood mats for logging operations. Thursday golf will take place at the Portsmouth Elks Country Club with clay shooting at Anderson Sporting Clays in Lucasville. Festivities will finish with a steak dinner furnished by the Scioto Ribber in Portsmouth. Hope to see you all there!

Other Upcoming Events:

  • Lumberman’s Outing, September 11, 2013, Orrville, OH.
  • Paul Bunyan Show, October 4-6, 2013, Guernsey County Fairgrounds.

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