COLUMBUS -- Firewood and other types of heating fuel would be exempt from sales taxes, under legislation being considered in the Ohio House.
Backers say HB 243 would provide the same break for users of alternative fuels that natural gas users already enjoy.
"Simply because you use propane or heating oil or wood instead of natural gas to heat your home does not mean you should pay additional taxes," Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson), a primary co-sponsor of the bill, told the Ohio House's Ways and Means CommitteeTuesday, where the legislation had its first hearing.
The bill specifically exempts firewood, kerosene, propane and fuel oil from sales taxes, so long as the fuels are purchased in bulk, unpackaged and used for heating purposes, according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
The bill does not currently cover wood pellets and other alternative fuels, though the sponsors voiced a willingness to consider amendments when asked by Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) about pellets.
Patterson said the exemption is a matter of fairness, "exempting certain items of necessity from sales and use taxes, and we believe heating fuels certainly fall under the category of necessary products."
Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), the other primary co-sponsor of the bill, told the Ways and Means Committee Tuesday that there are residents in his district without access to natural gas lines.
"This is a necessity for a lot of people in my part of the state," he said. "(They) have no other options (for heating)."
The bill includes language requiring the state to reimburse local governments for any resulting losses from the sales tax exemption.
"Over the course of the last several years, the state has enacted policies that harm the everyday lives of regular Ohioans by shifting funds away from local schools and communities," Patterson said. "We cannot continue down this path and, and as sponsors of HB 243, we urge the committee to maintain this important provision."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.