An extended tax break on logging equipment, championed by state Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, easily cleared the Oregon House by a 54-4 vote Tuesday.
House Bill 3112 would continue the tax exemption on the equipment until 2018 - six more years than current sunset on the law - and include machines built as long ago as 1992.
"This legislation provides an economic stimulus to help reduce the losses to our timber industry,"?Smith said in a statement. "It's frustrating to pay personal property taxes on equipment that has been sitting idle during the recession."
The already ailing timber industry took a hard hit with the sharp downturn in the U.S. housing market last year. Smith said he viewed this bill as "just one way we can help, especially when you consider logging businesses are shutting down due to a lack of work."
Though it doesn't appear to have mattered with such a lopsided vote, the bill is also one Democratic House leaders Dave Hunt and Peter Buckley pledged support for after Smith broke Republican ranks and voted for an income tax increase last week. A signed letter from Hunt, the House speaker, and Buckley also promised funding for several projects in Eastern Oregon.
That described deal has earned Smith strong praise from many of his constituents in District 57, but drawn the ire of some other lawmakers and top Republicans.
GOP ethics complaint goes nowhere
After details of the agreement surfaced last week, Oregon Republican Party Chairman Bob Tiernan filed an ethics complaint against Hunt and Buckley. But as filed, the complaint won't amount to anything, Oregon Government Ethics Commission Executive Director Ron Bersin said Thursday.
The reason, he said, is the letter sent to the OGEC cites an Oregon law that is considered a policy statement, not a regulatory statute.
"It's not something that the statutes allow me to go forward on in a regulatory manner,"?Bersin said. So while the complaint wasn't technically dismissed, it was "never initiated,"?he said.
Tiernan has been notified, and could clarify the complaint or provide additional evidence, Bersin said. But that hadn't happened as of Thursday morning, he added.