September 26, 2008

White House Backs Senate Legislation to Extend County Payments

Statement of Administration Policy outlines support for Senate measure; threatens veto of current House legislation

Washington, D.C. - Calling it "great news for rural communities," U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) welcomed the Administration's statement this afternoon (below) urging the House of Representatives to adopt the Senate Amendments to H.R. 6049 "passed by the Senate…in their entirety." The Senate Amendments to H.R. 6049, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, includes a Wyden-Reid-Bingaman-Baucus authored measure providing for a multi-year, $3.8 billion reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 and full funding for five years of the Payment in lieu of Taxes Program (PILT).

"I haven't been able to thank the President in some time, but I greatly appreciate his new willingness to accept my county payments proposal," said Wyden. "For the first time in the entire Bush administration, we now have two out of the three voices in the legislative process in agreement on county payments for Oregon counties. That means we are now closer to solving this crisis than we have been at any time in the last three years."

The Senate passed H.R. 6049 earlier this week by a vote of 93-2. Wyden's measure, which also includes full funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Program (PILT), was co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the Chairmen of both the Senate Finance and Energy and Natural Resource Committees, Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM.)

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000, originally authored by Wyden and U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) in 1999, established a six-year payment formula for counties that receive revenue-sharing payments from the United States Forest 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 county payments law, which was allowed to expire in September 2006.

The PILT program compensates states for loss of tax revenue from Federal lands. Full funding of PILT would also provide increased funding for counties in Oregon and around the country that lose tax revenues due to the presence of Federal lands in the state.

Last year, by a vote of 74 to 23, the Senate approved a Wyden-Reid-Bingaman-Baucus multi-year extension of the county payments law as part of the FY 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill. However, after opposition from the President, the House agreed to an extension for one year only.

The Statement of Administration Policy released earlier today is below:


H.R. 7060 - Renewable Energy and Job Creation Tax Act of 2008
(Rep. Rangel (D) New York)

As outlined in a Statement of Administration Policy to the Senate dated September 23, 2008, the Administration supports the bipartisan compromise agreed to overwhelmingly in the Senate. That compromise provides protection for about 26 million Americans from an unwelcome tax increase in the form of the Alternative Minimum Tax and would extend current law relating to certain business and individual tax incentives. The Administration is disappointed that the House has decoupled this legislation from AMT relief and insisted on raising taxes on certain classes of Americans in order to extend current law. By doing so, the House invites certain delay of this important piece of legislation being signed into law, which could disrupt the upcoming individual income tax filing season, and potentially delay tax refunds for American families. The Administration urges the House to adopt the Senate Amendments to H.R. 6049 passed by the Senate on September 23, 2008, in their entirety. If H.R. 7060 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.

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