May 22, 2008

Senate Approves County Payments Extension

Wyden Comments on Pending House Vote

Washington, D.C. - Voting 75 to 22, the U.S. Senate today approved an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008 (HR.2642) that included a one-year $400 million extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act.

"Once again an overwhelming majority of the Senate voted to keep our rural schools and communities afloat," said Wyden. "Today's vote sends a strong message to both the House and the White House that funding county payments is a critical national emergency."

The "county payments" extension was included in S.AMDT.4803 which contains all domestic emergency spending ranging from federal aid for natural disasters to home heating assistance. The amendment is attached to the Iraq War funding bill and now must be approved by the House of Representatives.

Wyden also commented on Congressman Peter DeFazio's (D-Springfield) announcement today that the House of Representatives will vote on a multi-year extension of the county payments program.

"I'm also ecstatic to hear that Peter DeFazio has secured a vote in the House of Representatives on a 4-year reauthorization of county payments," said Wyden. "The Senate already passed the four year reauthorization I authored in 2007 by a vote of 74-23, so when Peter's bill passes, both Houses of Congress will be on the record for a long-term fix. Then we will all ask President Bush, once again, not to turn his back on rural counties."

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000, originally authored by Wyden and U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) established a six-year payment formula for counties that receive revenue sharing payments for the United States Forestry Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Based on historical timber receipts, the formula established a stable source of revenue to be used for education, roads and various other county services in rural areas.

Over 700 counties in 39 states have received funding under the original country payments law, which was allowed to expire in September 2006. Last year by a vote of 74 to 23 the Senate approved a multi-year extension of the county payments as an amendment sponsored by Senator Wyden to the FY 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill; however after negotiations with the House of Representatives, the law was only extended for one year.