Cabin Fee Act: The CBO Finally Responds
March 20, 2014
The Congressional Budget Office
(CBO) has issued an opinion of the Cabin Fee Act of 2013 (S. 1341), and its conclusions are not favorable. As we have mentioned in the past, delaying
passage of the bill into 2014 would have negative effects on scoring. This has
proven to be true. Also, it must be understood that as the gatekeeper for
revenue evaluations of legislation, created by the “Pay As You Go” rules of
Congress, the CBO does not disclose exactly how it arrives at its conclusions, so we have done our best to interpret the CBO report and propose
revisions to the bill to solve for the identified revenue gap. The challenges
have been and continue to be formidable.
We are having frequent and candid
conversations with the Forest Service over the details and potential revisions
to the bill. It must be stated again that the Forest Service continues to
support the Cabin Fee Act and encourages open dialogue aimed at resolving
differences and interpretations. Every effort is being made to be sure we view and
interpret the bill the same.
Further research and discussions clarifying complexities
such as the timing of CUFFA implementation, how the fee cap affects revenues
during the transition period, the revenue impact of pending second appraisals
and the potential loss of cabins under CUFFA are proceeding. That said, our
proposed revisions to bill language and components of the bill are noted below:
- Change first year of Fee Retention to 2024, not 2023. Delays
for one year when the Forest Service can begin utilizing CFA funds.
- Change required completion of current appraisals under CUFFA
to one year, not two. This reflects current timing projections and moves full
implementation of the CFA to 2016, not 2017, as noted by the CBO. This
eliminates one year fee cap and increases the inflationary adjustment.
- Revise second appraisal paragraph, insert second appraisal
reference in current appraisal section. The intent is to ensure that second
appraisals apply only to completion of the current appraisals under CUFFA. No
future appraisals will be permitted under the CFA.
- Remove “not to exceed” and “at least” from the CFA fee
table. Intent is to allow the Forest Service to assign permits to fee tiers in
numbers that are as close “approximately” to the stated percentages. This
aligns with the House bill.
- Increase each CFA fee tier by $100. First tier
becomes $600, the second tier becomes $1100, and so on up to the eleventh tier
at $5600. Without this increase NFH and C2 have little confidence that passage
of the CFA can occur this year.
The first four changes above do
not impact cabin owners, but will clarify the intent of the bill and adjust some
of the assumptions made by the CBO. These changes will solve most of the
revenue gap, however we believe a change to the fee table is required to close
the remaining gap. The NFH and the Cabin Coalition 2 endorse these changes. Over the next week or so we will confirm the proposed language
changes to the bill with Forest Service and our bill sponsors. Then we expect
our sponsors to take these changes back to the CBO for consideration and
review. Hopefully, we will satisfy the revenue issue and allow the bill to move
forward. And finally, the political calendar shortens daily and is further
complicated by the election year. We cannot be assured that passage of the bill
will happen quickly, but every effort to achieve passage of the Cabin Fee Act
this year is being made.
For the Cabin Coalition
2 Steering Committee