May 21, 2004
State senators unanimously approved a plan Thursday to use tax incentives to get companies to harvest trees in Arizona forests.
The measure is billed as a compromise between those who want to use economic carrots to thin the forests and those who want new restrictions on what can be built among the trees. But Rep. Tom O’Halleran, R-Sedona, the architect of those restrictions, said the final bill ignores some key safety issues.
"It’s a very weak merging of the two proposals,’’ he said. "We will not protect our communities without ‘defensible space’ " around homes and developments.
But O’Halleran conceded there is not enough time left in this session to convince colleagues to broaden the measure.
He vowed to try again next year.
The legislation approved Thursday would provide income tax credits for logging and wood-processing firms that hire at least 10 new people who live in the state.
Employers would get what essentially would be a rebate from the state for one quarter of the taxable wages paid to each new worker, up to $500, the first year. That would increase to a third of their wages for the second year, up to $1,000, and one half of their wages, up to $1,500, in the third year of continuous employment.
These credits could be claimed for up to 200 jobs.
Companies would have to pay their workers at least the average wage in the county and provide health insurance for employees, picking up at least half the cost.