As my professors used to say when I’d critique something… “if you’d written the paper, you could have done it your way.” Even if we agree on facts, calculations, or projections, they don’t necessarily lead to only one possible narrative. One of the things I like to do on TWS is to explore different ways of looking at the same facts. So let’s look at the OPB/Oregonian/Propublica piece titled Big Money Bought the Forests:Small Logging Communities are Paying the Price.
In this case, the numbers aren’t really “facts” but calculations. I’m not enough of an economist to dig in to how they were calculated, but Here’s a link to a piece describing it.
I will say this, though. The tagline on the webpage is “A data investigation by OPB, The Oregonian/OregonLive and ProPublica found that timber tax cuts have cost counties at least $3 billion in the past three decades”, but they also later explain, adding “Since then, the department estimates the total loss from forestland property taxes to be about $806 million.” Since most states tax agricultural and forest land at lower rates, I’m not sure that adding this amount in is appropriate for this analysis, so I’ll call it “severance+.” Here’s Polk County’s explanation of the farm and forest deferrals.
I copied the analysis, and calculated a difference and a ratio of fed/severance+ losses for each county. It would be appreciated if someone would check my figures. After a while of looking at them, I wondered if the differentials (between fed and severance+ losses) could be attributed to the proportion of federal to private land in each county. I couldn’t find that, but I could find the % public land here. A problem with that data for our use here is that State land is also included. Even so, there seems to be a high correlation between bad impacts to counties with lots of federal land from the fed payment loss, and bad impacts to counties with lots of private land from the severance+ tax loss. If someone has just the federal land %, I will fix the table.
You could conclude, as the authors did, that half the counties did just as badly from severance as they had from federal payment loss.
Half of the 18 counties in Oregon’s timber-dominant region lost more money from tax cuts on private forests than from the reduction of logging on federal lands, the investigation shows.
You could conclude that taken across counties, more was lost to Oregon counties from lost federal payments than from severance+.
You could conclude that some counties have had a really bad double whammy. Douglas, Lane and Linn. It would have been interesting to interview people in those counties.
But I haven’t lived in Oregon for a long time, and never on the west side, so I’m hoping others will weigh in with other ideas and conclusions.
|Estimated Revenue Losses in Oregon’s Western Counties Since 1991||Est Fed Payment Loss||Est Severance+ Tax Loss||Difference||Ratio Fed/Sev||%Public Land|
*Clatsop County’s federal payments are estimated to have increased slightly since 1991.