Ron unveils new endowment to help rural counties

Flanked by commissioners from Douglas, Lane, Baker, Malheur, Harney and Union counties, Ron unveiled new bipartisan legislation last week that would ensure rural counties in Oregon and nationwide have the stabile long-term funding they need for schools, roads and law enforcement.

At a news conference in Boise with the Oregon county commissioners, as well as Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and county commissioners from Idaho, Ron said the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act would achieve that long-term certainty by establishing a permanently endowed fund, made up partly from timber receipts, from which payments would be made each year.

This legislation is a logical update of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS)—originally co-authored two decades ago by Wyden—to help counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. In recent years, despite Wyden’s efforts, Congress has let SRS funding lapse and decrease, creating massive uncertainty for counties as they budget for basic county services.

“Long-term quality of life in rural America requires a new long-term road map,” Ron said at the news conference outside the Idaho state Capitol.

“A permanent endowment fund provides both funding certainty and support for active forest management by taking counties off the congressional roller-coaster and ensures stable, reliable -- and increasing -- payments to counties,” he said.

Among those at the news conference with Wyden, Crapo and Risch to support the new legislation were Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch, Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett, Malheur County Commissioner Dan Joyce, Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels, and Union County Commissioner Donna Beverage.

Over the past 20 years SRS payments provided about  $7 billion to more than 700 counties and 4,400 school districts in more than 40 states to fund schools and essential services like roads and public safety.  With a one time $7 billion dollar endowment the new fund will pay out to counties in perpetuity.