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Feb-13-2012 21:10printcomments

Kitzhaber Asked to Reject Attempts to Privatize Public Lands for Public Schools

“Where is the return on the more than 2.6 million dollars that the Department of State Lands stated was the value of 621 acres exchanged to Giustina Resources?” asked Shannon Wilson of Eco Advocates NW.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

(SALEM) - At the State Land Board meeting on Tuesday February 14th 2012 Eco Advocates Northwest urges Governor John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown, and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler to reject the Department of State Lands attempts to privatize thousands of acres of publicly owned lands in Oregon to allegedly raise funds for public schools.

In light of a past Common School Fund Lands boondoggle described below in a December 2010 Oregonian article, Eco Advocates Northwest would propose that Governor John Kitzhaber raise public school funds by rectifying a colossal mistake created by the Oregon Legislature in 1999 by reversing House Bill 3575. HB 3575 exempted large timber land owners who owned more than 5,000 acres from paying the timber harvest privilege tax. Governor Kitzhaber enacted HB 3575 by signing it into Law in 1999.

The timber harvest privilege tax accrued roughly $35 million per year (Oregon Department of Revenue) to the state of Oregon, public schools and county governments before 2000. However, with the full implementation of HB 3575 by 2004 the timber harvest taxes collected from owners of more than 5,000 acres plummeted to zero. This has meant the loss of hundred of millions of tax revenue dollars over the last 12 years that is now vital to the State of Oregon, Oregon’s public schools, and shrinking county budgets and services.

With schools and counties now struggling to make ends meet we implore the Governor and the Oregon Legislature to repeal House Bill 3575 to increase the crucially needed funds to support public schools and counties.

“The re-implementation of the timber harvest privilege tax would be a win for Oregon schools and a win for the struggling county governments trying to fight insolvency,” stated Shannon Wilson of Eco Advocates Northwest.

Background

In an Oregonian article by Eric Mortenson published in December 11, 2010 titled “Oregon land department makes 'gutsy bet' in trading timber for a failed Redmond subdivision” Mortenson describes 63 empty subdivision lots acquired by the Department of State Lands from Giustina Resources in exchange for 621 acres of Common School Fund Lands in Lane County.

The 621 acres of Common School Fund Land acquired by Giustina Resources has been completely logged and as of February 13, 2012 none of the 63 lots on the Redmond subdivision the State acquired in 2010 has sold or has been built on.

“Where is the return on the more than 2.6 million dollars that the Department of State Lands stated was the value of 621 acres exchanged to Giustina Resources?” asked Shannon Wilson of Eco Advocates NW.

The Department of State Lands is working from a 2006 Asset Management Plan (AMP) that calls for it to shed Common School Fund Lands that they claim is difficult to manage or not producing enough money for the school fund -- the department's primary duty since statehood in 1859. The Asset Management Plan recommended “disposing” of about 12,000 acres of scattered forests in western Oregon and 12,000 acres of isolated and unleased rangeland in eastern Oregon.




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Marcia Denison February 17, 2012 12:38 am (Pacific time)

Until we give counties back the revenue source lost by HB3575 by repealing it, we are in no position to expect more from the feds to subsidise our mistakes.

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