New Maine laws intended to benefit forestry truckers

| 4/30/2008

Multiple bills in the Maine Legislature that have been brought up for consideration this year are intended to aid truckers in the state’s forest products industry.

Gov. John Baldacci put his signature on a bill to provide for a sales tax exemption for repair parts and maintenance supplies used for motor vehicles and trailers primarily engaged in the transport of harvested forest products.

The new law, previously LD2225, requires that eligible purchases be made between April 1, 2008, and Sept. 30, 2008. A fiscal note on the bill reports the tax exemption would result in a loss of about $292,000 during the next two fiscal years.

The governor is authorized to transfer funds by financial order from the emergency portion of the State Contingent Account to the unappropriated surplus of the General Fund.

Baldacci signed another bill into law to offer relief for people engaged in the forestry and logging industry. The measure – LD2222 – provides temporary relief from property taxes.

Existing Maine law requires a claim for reimbursement of property taxes under the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program, or “BETR,” to be filed from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, for property taxes paid during the preceding calendar year.

People engaged in the forestry and logging industry will be allowed to file a claim between Feb. 1, 2008, and July 31, 2008, under the BETR program for property taxes paid during 2007 on eligible property. The relief will be limited to the owner of the eligible property on the date the claim is filed.

A fiscal note on the bill reports that changing the timing of claims will reduce General Fund revenue by $474,500 during the next two fiscal years.

Meanwhile, a separate bill that died also was intended to aid truckers involved in the forestry industry.

Sponsored by Rep. Douglas Thomas, R-Ripley, the bill – LD2209 – sought to temporarily suspend axle-weight fines. The measure would have clarified that a vehicle transporting raw agricultural products or forest products that exceeds the axle weight limits and axle weight tolerance restrictions imposed under Maine law is not subject to a fine for a violation of those limits and restrictions unless the vehicle exceeds the maximum gross vehicle weight limits, including tolerances.

The federal truck weight limit of 100,000 pounds on interstates would not have been affected, the Bangor Daily News reported.

Thomas’ bill didn’t clear the Senate before the regular session adjourned. The House previously approved it.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Maine in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor