June 09, 2008

Senate Tax Package Includes County Payments Extension

Wyden pledges to pursue "every conceivable legislative option" to secure funding for rural schools and communities

Washington, D.C. - Following a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) announced today that a four year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act - commonly known as the "county payments" law - is included in the Senate version of H.R.6049, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008. Wyden cautioned that the Republicans' threat to filibuster is likely to derail his effort.

"I hope that my Republican colleagues will resist the urge to filibuster long enough to throw the nation's rural schools and communities a lifeline," said Wyden. "But rest assured if they don't see the light tomorrow, I will continue to pursue every conceivable legislative option until these communities get the funding they so desperately need."

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 law as part of the FY 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill; however after negotiations with the House of Representatives, the law was only extended for one year. Earlier this year, a one-year extension of the county payments law was included by Wyden in an emergency domestic spending bill, which passed the full Senate by a veto-proof majority of 75 to 22. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on emergency spending legislation later this week.