Our final opportunity to pass the Cabin Fee Act (CFA) will occur during the ‘Lame Duck’ session that is expected to begin November 12th when the 113th Congress returns to DC following the November 4th elections. This update summarizes where we stand today with the CFA.
The House Natural Resources committee passed the CFA out of committee in September with a $50 per tier fee increase intended to assure revenue neutrality over the ten year Congressional Budget Office (CBO) evaluation period. However, with that success in hand, we were informed that budget rules in the House would likely prevent the bill from being brought up for a floor vote because the bill was not revenue neutral in year one and years one through five, as well as over the ten years. The Cabin Coalition 2 and NFH have been struggling to find a solution to this non-negotiable rule since. The options are limited and these are the steps we have taken:
First, we have encouraged our sponsors to consider waiving the year-one and one-through-five procedural rules as we believe such waivers have occurred in the past. However, following a personal meeting with our House sponsor, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), the likelihood of this occurring appears limited. We continue to press for this option and other avenues to move the existing legislation forward, but have not been successful so far.
Second, we have tried to determine the source of the first and second year shortfall by directly questioning the CBO. To date, we have not had a response, but we continue pressing our sponsors and our lobbyists to encourage a prompt reply to our simple questions. As in the past, the CBO only responds when committee action or a floor vote is imminent. A slow response may occur this time, too, which means we may not have better information until after the election and Congress returns to DC.
Third, we have reexamined the language in the bill and believe that the early years’ shortfall is due to the 2014 and 2015 fee cap that limits all high end fees to the top tier fee of $5,650. The Cabin Coalition and NFH both believe that we may have to remove this provision from the bill to meet the now higher and more stringent revenue neutral standards. This is not good news for those cabin owners who most need the immediate protection of this provision. Nearly 800 cabin owners would face CUFFA fees of $6,000 and above for 2014 and 2015 before the lower CFA fees would take effect in 2016. In an informal poll of several tracts that would be directly affected by removing the fee caps, we heard overwhelming support of continuing forward for the eventual benefits that the CFA will bring for the long-term health of the cabin program.
Fourth, we continue conversations with the Forest Service DC office. Their support for the CFA is unwavering and they regularly acknowledge the unfairness of CUFFA fees for many cabin owners. We are continuing to press for consideration of temporary permit suspension, an extended billing option for 2014 and 2015 fees or some other way of providing some relief for those cabin owners most egregiously impacted by high CUFFA fees.
While we continue to pursue all avenues to see CFA enacted as most recently passed out of House Committee, it may be that our options to pass the CFA this year and get long-term relief from CUFFA , may boil down to removing the 2014 and 2015 fee cap – or possibly getting no bill at all. Rest assured that we are all doing everything we can to get the best possible CFA solution enacted. On behalf of NFH and our C2 partners, thank you for your continuing and active support through this long effort. Stay tuned.
NFH President, for the Cabin Coalition 2