Elected leaders in Washington D.C. are moving forward with legislation to extend critical funding for Baker County and other Oregon counties.
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., today announced that he has secured a two-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for local schools, roads, and law enforcement in Oregon’s rural forested communities.
“Last December, Speaker Boehner and I committed to extending this lifeline for rural Oregon communities by March 31. Today, we fulfill that commitment. My Oregon colleague Peter DeFazio deserves credit, too, for working with his leadership to support including this provision,” Walden stated in the press release.
“This two-year extension gives us time to continue work on a long-term plan to reform federal forest policy to grow jobs in the woods, improve forest health, and provide certainty for essential local services like schools and roads,” he stated.
The Associated Press reported today the House will vote on the bill Thursday.
In the Senate, an amendment to the federal budget bill that would reauthorize federal money tied into the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Act has been approved by the Senate Budget Committee according to a press release from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden’s, D-Ore. office.
“It is good news the House Leadership has decided to stop playing politics with the safety net for Oregon counties,” Wyden stated in the press release. “Their decision is a concrete recognition that linking the safety net to unsustainable and unacceptable logging practices can never become law.”
Wyden and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, introduced a bill to extend the county payments program last month. He authored the original SRS program with then Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho, in 2000. Since then it has brought more than $2.8 billion to rural Oregon counties.
Last year the SRS program funded about $107 million to Oregon counties.
“As the author of the bipartisan Secure Rural Schools program, I’m pleased to report progress in the Senate: an 18 to 4 vote in favor of a three-year reauthorization of SRS in the Budget Committee and a bipartisan bill with Senator Crapo for three-year reauthorization and restoration of PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes,” Wyden stated. “I will continue to pursue at every opportunity and on every piece of must-pass legislation, this lifeline for Oregon counties.”
(PILT are federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable Federal lands within their boundaries.)