Jerry Brown signs bill boosting California timber industry
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday enacting a new tax on lumber sales and restricting legal damages for wildfires.
The bill, AB 1492, was pushed through after midnight on the last day of the legislative session. Because it needed two-thirds support in the Legislature, Brown and his aides had to twist arms to secure Republican votes.
“This legislation enacts serious bipartisan reform to even the playing field to protect California’s timber-industry jobs," Brown said in a statement.
Previously, oversight of California’s vast timber industry was funded with fees on companies in the state. The bill shifts the costs to consumers by placing a 1% tax on lumber sales.
California timber companies supported the change because it eliminates a financial advantage for out-of-state operations, which didn’t need to pay the fee.
“This bill makes our company more competitive with out-of-state businesses and strengthens our industry," said a statement from Red Emmerson, president of Sierra Pacific Industries, the state's largest timber company. "Governor Brown’s leadership brings California the first major reform to the timber industry in decades, improving California’s business climate for years to come."
The bill has been controversial because it limits the amount of money government agencies can seek during lawsuits over wildfires caused by negligence. Members of President Obama's Cabinet and federal prosecutors opposed the change, saying it would make it harder to recoup money needed to recover from wildfires.
Timber companies have countered by saying federal prosecutors routinely sue for much more than the land is worth in an effort to boost the government's bottom line.
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento
Photo: Timber awaiting shipment in Eureka, Calif. Credit: Los Angeles Times