Lawmaker wants to give Pennsylvania's loggers a break
Miles into the forest, logger Patrick Donovan sits atop a $200,000 log truck as he deftly picks up pieces of poplar with a metal grabber that resembles an oversized arcade machine claw.
The truck, which often buses 21 tons of logs to sawmills, is too costly to replace, despite its years of use, Donovan said.
But a state legislator is trying to ease some of the costs for Pennsylvania's 800 loggers, who produce more hardwood lumber, such as oak and maple, than any other state in the nation.
Rep. Matt Gabler wants to exempt timber harvesters from paying sales tax on their costly equipment purchases.
The move would give the logging industry the same tax break as sawmills and some other agricultural businesses, such as farms, that are not required to pay sales tax when buying equipment.
Experts say Gabler's bill will not only save money for loggers, but also for everyday consumers of wood products, such as lumber for home building and furniture.
Donovan, a 34-year veteran of the industry and a member of the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association, wholeheartedly supports the proposal “to help us save money so we can purchase equipment” and “so it's more feasible for the small businesses and the logging industry to stay profitable.”
The House Finance Committee unanimously approved Gabler's bill in June, and he's now waiting to see whether it will appear on the House floor for a vote.
The DuBois Republican's legislation would exempt from sales tax anything purchased for direct use in producing timber, he said.
He added that because consumers pay sales tax when they purchase lumber, charging sales tax to loggers is “essentially double taxing.”
Donovan operates Patrick Donovan Logging, a two-man operation headquartered in Ligonier Township. He said he hasn't purchased new equipment since 1995 because it costs too much.
For him, the legislation could mean he could buy new or used equipment for his operation.
With costs at $170,000 for a bulldozer and as much as $200,000 for other equipment, sales tax alone could climb to about $12,000, said Jamie Menoher, arborist with Patrick Donovan Logging.
The sales tax exclusions would cover a variety of equipment used in logging, such as chainsaws and safety equipment, said Paul Lyskava, executive director of the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association, which supports the bill.
“It's going to benefit the state's logging community, which is primarily made up of small business entrepreneurs. ... A lot of loggers would like to and probably need to update their equipment, and this would go a long way toward providing them some financial assistance to doing so,” Lyskava said.
Gabler proposed the bill after a logging company questioned why sales tax exclusions are extended to farmers but not loggers.
Gabler said the existing law dictating who pays sales tax is somewhat arbitrary.
“The folks that harvest the trees out of the woods do not enjoy a sales tax exclusion, but once those trees are taken to the sawmill ... a sales tax exclusion is applied,” Gabler said. “There's no real reason why that would be different.”
To Gabler, trees are a crop, just like the corn crops that farmers harvest.
The current law can induce accounting headaches, Gabler said, pointing out that a sawmill might also do timbering work using the same equipment.
Gabler estimates his bill's annual impact on the state coffers would be a reduction of about $500,000 in tax revenue, a “pretty small amount” considering the overall budget, he said.
“When you think about who it's going to benefit, it's small family-owned job creators. A little bit of money to them goes a long way to continue to operate in small towns,” Gabler said. “And to make sure that our products produced in Pennsylvania are competitive to those produced in neighboring states.”
Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Directors to view Southmoreland High upgrades
- PennDOT prefers keeping Yukon, Madison interchanges; project to require at least 3 new bridges
- 2 arrested after Jeannette raid turns up heroin, crack, gun
- Two Westmoreland men charged with drug possession
- Greensburg Salem parents plead for restoration of 3 bus routes
- Inmate charged with smuggling drugs into Westmoreland prison
- Police: Woman faked Mt. Pleasant robbery
- Hempfield officials to review site plan for Excela Health Orthoplex
- Contractor on New Stanton I-70 project wants access route
- Ligonier man accused of beating, strangling woman
- Latrobe parks and recreation director to retire