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Jan-24-2007 14:09printcomments

West Coast Senators Put County Payments on Senate Agenda

“Without county payments funding, there is a real question as to whether or not these communities can survive,” Senator Ron Wyden said.

Senator Ron Wyden and teen news writer Sean King
Senator Ron Wyden and teen news writer Sean King

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - A bipartisan coalition of West Coast Senators on Wednesday announced the introduction of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Reauthorization Act of 2007, legislation that would restore funding for the critical “county payments” law by reauthorizing the successful program for seven years.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, introduced a bill with U.S. Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

Over 700 counties in 39 states received funding under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000, which was allowed to expire in September 2006.

Despite repeated efforts by the Senators to reauthorize the bill last year, the Congress and Administration could not agree on a funding source for the legislation.

“Without county payments funding, there is a real question as to whether or not these communities can survive,” Wyden said.

“Schools and sheriffs’ departments are already looking at lay-offs to balance their budgets, and libraries are preparing to close. With the U.S. government owning the majority of land in some of these counties, the Federal Government must meet its commitment to these communities.”

“As a former educator, I am committed to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to learn, regardless of where they live,” Murray said.

“This bill will provide our rural communities with the revenue they need to ensure those opportunities for our children, and make certain that vital county services continue to operate.”

“The county payment safety net was pulled from underneath rural counties,” Smith said.

“Now these counties are dangling from an economic tightrope. Oregon already lives with devastating federal restrictions on our forests, but we cannot live without public services and without funding for schools. That must not be the rural legacy of this Congress.”

"The County Payments program is a vital lifeline supporting schools, roads, and law enforcement in more than 700 rural counties nationwide," said Cantwell.

"I am committed to working with my colleagues to do all I can to continue these indispensable public services in Pacific Northwest forest communities. Congress must find the funding necessary to support this bipartisan initiative and keep our rural counties afloat."

Boxer said: “In California alone, 4,535 schools are facing imminent teacher and administrator layoffs. I am pleased to be a part of this bipartisan effort, which will provide vitally needed school funds for California’s rural areas. I urge the Senate leadership to move swiftly on this legislation--our teachers, administrators, and most importantly our students cannot afford to wait another day for this urgently needed education funding.”

Before the county payments law passed in September 2000, many rural counties were receiving payments as the result of 1908 and 1937 laws specifying that the government share 25 percent of U.S. Forest Service receipts and 50 percent of Bureau of Land Management receipts with counties in any state that hosts Federal land from which timber is cut.

These payments had been used to help finance rural schools and roads.

Toward the mid-to late-nineties, however, the principal source of those revenues, federal timber sales, declined by over 70 percent nationwide.

Consequently, the corresponding revenues shared with rural counties throughout the country declined precipitously, hurting school and transportation funding.

In 2000, legislation authored by Senator Wyden to provide an alternative source of county funding was enacted into law, establishing a six-year payment formula for counties that receive revenue-sharing payments for USFS and BLM lands.

The formula established a stable source of revenue, a safety net or “full payment amount,” to be used for education, roads and county services in rural areas.

The legislation also provided funding for ecosystem restoration, infrastructure maintenance and stewardship projects on national forests, fostering all-too-rare cooperation between counties, timber interests, and environmentalists.

The safety net amount was based on historical timber receipts.

“In 2000, we hailed passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act as a victory for rural school children across the country,” Wyden said.

“Today, it is the most important issue facing rural communities in Oregon. We must act now in order to get these counties off the fiscal roller coaster and back to stable funding for schools and public safety.”

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

P.O'P. January 29, 2007 6:04 pm (Pacific time)

Dear Bonnie, In an indirect way, I was wondering if you were offended which was far from my intent. Just curious if you saw some redeeming qualities in the comment. I like feedback even if it is hard to take. I like to push things to the edge but not over.

Paranoia O'Pedophilia January 28, 2007 7:20 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks Matt, I knew you were a nice guy. I like Bonnie and think she has enough angst. If she is uncomfortable....can it! Use it as a doormatt. Get it? Use it as a Dohr Matt. The comment may have reprecussions that I am not aware of. On the other hand, it should generate a laugh from Senator Wyden and more so Sean. You guys decide. I'm leavin it up to you-hoo-hoo, you decide whatchagonna do. Do you want my luh... ha... huvvvvv or are we through? I like the site too much to leave it. It has been a real bonus experience in my life. Everyone take a look at Matt Lintz in the Staff section. You can see he is a nice decent guy. Anonymous people aren't necessarily out to harm people either. Sometimes they love MANKIND even though man is not kind... usually. Is woman kind? Not necessarily. I met a real B.... tonight. You might think I'm nuts and I don't care but you should have heard this head case! Jee Zee Pee Zee! What a Lulu!
Matt is also looking for any side work for any type of computer / website /software design ;)

Delete the Comment January 28, 2007 4:29 pm (Pacific time)

If you are backloged than print it. If you are uncomfortable....delete. Click. The comment is constructive with wit. But we live in a P.C. paranoid world. Is this or that appropriate? Who might get offended? But is there any real danger except the challenge to your culturally molded mind? Feelings are not facts, they lie and deceive us and tell us there is danger when there is none. If Bush can give the camera the finger, many, many times, what is the big deal! The sixties and seventies sure are dead. PARANOIA ABOUNDS! FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN! An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Is that better? Love thy neighbor as thyself. Life is perfect, beautiful and wonderful. Do not pull up a beautiful tree by the roots to see how it is growing because it might die. PollyAnna--- Oh, don't you cry for me. I've come from another location with real knowledge on my knee.
From Matt:
Bonnie is out for a few days and I am doing the comment approval and just wasn't sure if I should or not. So I didn't delete or approve.

Osotan January 24, 2007 5:37 pm (Pacific time)

I've heard of "ham" radio but this is...,almost extreme. And yeah JAFO., the tought of him shaking hands with Al Frankin while the rest of us get to watch downloaded feeds upsets me too!

JAFO January 24, 2007 5:12 pm (Pacific time)

is that a King kid with the congressman? I suppose the next picture I see will probably be Tim King shaking hands with the Governor?, or Al Frankin? not that I'm jealous or anything.

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