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Rep. Ryan Harmon (R-Palermo)
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For Immediate Release

Date: 02/22/12

Tree growth study bill gets unanimous committee approval

House Republican Office

February 17, 2012

For more information:

Jay Finegan, 287-1445

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tree Growth Study Bill Gets Unanimous Committee Approval

AUGUSTA - The Legislature's Taxation Committee on Feb. 15 unanimously approved LD 1470, a bill to ensure the proper administration of Maine's Tree Growth Tax Law.

For decades, the program has offered tax abatements to landowners who harvest timber on their land in accordance with an approved harvesting plan. There have long been concerns, however, that the program has been abused and that excessive abatements have given some people breaks—people who are not actually harvesting timber—while leaving other property owners with a higher tax burden.

The problem is especially apparent with the level of participation in the Tree Growth program among owners of coastal properties, which often are prohibited by separate zoning laws from harvesting trees yet enroll in the program because of the massive tax break available. The value of tax breaks on those lots often doesn't make economic sense in light of the value of the timber that can be harvested there.

State Rep. Ryan Harmon (R-Palermo), a member of the Taxation Committee, has been a steady advocate of the bill throughout the legislative process. "It's important that we make sure the program isn't simply acting as a tax loophole," he said. "This bill will ensure that the program will serve its intended purpose of promoting sound forestry and economic development."

LD 1470 is sponsored by House and Senate Republicans and orders a random survey to be conducted annually by the Maine Forest Service to determine whether landowners are indeed following the timber harvest plans required of the Tree Growth tax break.

The survey will not be used to impose penalties on individual landowners, but will provide the Forest Service and Legislature a picture of whether the program is being operated as intended. The survey program carries a sunset date of December 31, 2014.

Thomas Doak, Executive Director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine (SWOAM), was instrumental in putting together a consensus bill. "Tree Growth is one of the most important laws for landowners because it makes it possible for them to keep their land as forested land," he said. "This law makes sure that the program continues to be available for landowners while at the same time ensuring that it is administered properly."

LD 1470 is titled "An Act To Ensure Harvesting of Timber on Land Taxed under the Maine Tree Growth Tax Law." It will move to the full Legislature in the coming weeks. ###

Contact:
Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445