Senate approves House timber bill

Senate approves House timber bill
A bill to boost the timber industry in rural counties has cleared both the House and Senate. Photo:

The Washington Senate on April 16 voted 47-1 in favor of a bill intended to boost the timber industry in rural counties with higher unemployment rates compared to urban counties in the central Puget Sound region.

ESHB 1324 sponsored by Deputy Majority Whip Mike Chapman (D24) extends a reduced business and occupation (B&O) tax rate for certain timber activities set to expire in 2024 until 2036. It also adds cross-laminated timber (CLT) or “mass timber” to products that receive a preferential B&O tax rate. The bill previously was unanimously approved by House lawmakers on Mar. 7.

“This is a good bill for timber country in my district,” Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-35) told colleagues on the Senate floor. If the log trucks are running, jobs are happening and people are in good spirits.”

If signed into law, the bill would represent another important step in an effort to bring CLT into mainstream use. Currently, certain timber activities enjoy a reduced B&O tax rate of .003424 percent established in 2007. Two other bills introduced this session would have included CLT in that preferential rate; SB 5467 sponsored by Majority Floor Leader Marko Liias (D-21) cleared the Senate on Mar. 12, but did not advance from the House Finance Committee.

Under ESHB 1324, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy would examine the effectiveness of programs intended to promote private investment and job growth in rural communities and compare the results to those same programs in all other states. A report to the legislature would be due by July 1, 2020.

Sen. Mark Mullet (D-5) told colleagues on the Senate floor that the study will help them “figure out the smartest way we can try to spur economic development in our rural communities throughout this state.”

Last year, the legislature directed the Washington State Building Code Council to incorporate CLT, a task that was completed in November. The next month, the International Code Council (ICC) made similar revisions. CLT is seen as a way to create commercial value for small-diameter trees contributing to density and wildfire severity in Washington’s forestland that can be costly to remove.



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