CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, September 10, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3397, the Cabin Fee Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was introduced on November 10, 2011, by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which held a mark up and reported the bill by unanimous consent on November 17, 2011.
H.R. 3397 would authorize the establishment of a new schedule of fees that individuals who own cabins located on Forest Service lands are required to pay to the federal government. Under current law, owners of affected cabins pay an annual fee to the federal government equal to 5 percent of the appraised value of the occupied land. Under the bill, cabin owners would pay set annual fees ranging from $500 to $4,500 per cabin, depending on the appraised value of the occupied land. The fees would be adjusted based on changes in the Implicit Price Deflator for the Gross Domestic Product published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Department of Commerce, applied on a 5-year rolling average.
In addition, the bill would require the Forest Service to collect transfer fees from cabin owners who sell their property, based on the sale price. Under the bill, a seller would be required to pay a fee of $1,000 upon the sale of a cabin up to $250,000. For cabins above that price, the seller would pay $1,000 and an additional 5 percent on every dollar between $250,000 and $500,000, and an additional 10 percent on every dollar above $500,000.
According the Natural Resources Committee, a summer cabin program has existed in National Forests for almost a century, but recent changes in the way permit fees are set for these cabins will put them beyond the reach of many cabin owners. The current system for setting fees for ownership of cabins on National Forest land does not accurately reflect the value of the limited use-permits and the fees often go far beyond what average families can afford, forcing many cabin owners to sell or abandon their cabins. Appraisals completed recently under the current Cabin User Fee Fairness Act (CUFFA) indicate 45 percent of owners have seen fee increases of 200 percent or higher, 20 percent exceed $5,000, 8.5 percent exceed $7,000 and 3.7 percent exceed $10,000. The Cabin Fee Act requires the assignment of each permitted lot to one of nine fee tiers, based on the rank order of current appraised values. The lowest 8 percent of appraised lot values are assigned to the $500 tier. The highest 4 percent are assigned to the $4,500 tier. Following this process, user fee revenue is projected to be about $30 million when fully implemented. User fees are to be adjusted annually by a rolling average of the Implicit Price Deflator for Gross National Product index.
Because H.R. 3397 would cap annual cabin fees at $4,500 and prevent scheduled fee increases from being implemented as they would be under current law, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would lower annual receipts received through the fee program.