CHARLESTON — Lawmakers might want to revist West Virginia’s new severance tax on the timber industry, Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick suggested Sunday.

The co-chairman raised the issue in a meeting of the Forest Management Review Commission, after an industry leader said small landowners are howling about the increase.

Gov. Joe Manchin gained approval of a revised tax this year to help create a $230 million revenue stream dedicated to retiring the massive liability of workers compensation.

As part of that collateral base, Helmick, D-Pocahontas explained, timber is being hit with a tax to generate some $3.5 million.

Dick Waybright, executive director of the West Virginia Forestry Association, said small landowners accustomed to enjoying relief from the tax when their gross revenues were below $15,000 will be paying it for the first time.

“It’s going to be the little Mom and Pop operations that are going to be paying $1,000 to $3,000 they never paid before,” he told the commission.

Larger operations will see whopping hikes, since the old Super Tax credits are due to expire this year, it was pointed out.

Helmick said he wanted an in-depth study of how the tax affects small business concerns, along with a comparison of how other states tax the wood industry, when the commission meets again in December’s interims session.

Given the higher fuel costs that arose last summer, and other factors, Waybright said many operations are struggling to survive and some will go under when the new tax comes on board Dec. 1.

“The wood industry is at a 10- to 15-year low,” he said. “It’s been a tough year.”

“The severance tax is a very unfair tax. You pay whether you make a profit or not.”

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