April 14, 2015

Wyden: Senate Renews a Lifeline for Rural Oregon Roads, Schools and First Responders

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., praised the Senate’s move tonight to extend a lifeline to rural Oregon communities with passage of a two-year renewal of the Secure Rural Schools program.

“This extension ends months of uncertainty for Oregon’s rural communities, who have grappled with on-again, off-again funding for roads, schools and first responders,” Wyden said. “Renewed county payments buy us time to build support for solutions that address the broader economic issues that plague too many of our rural areas.”  

Wyden authored the original Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program in 2000 with then-Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Since then it has brought more than $2.8 billion to rural Oregon counties.  Wyden and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, introduced a three-year extension of the county payments program last month.

The two-year extension that cleared the Senate is expected to bring about $85 million to Oregon counties this year and will provide Oregon counties needed certainty through this year while Congress develops a broader and longer-term solution.

House Republican leaders dropped their demands to link county payments to unsustainable clearcut logging, which blocked an extension of SRS last year. Wyden pledged to continue work on his O&C forestry legislation, which gained bipartisan support last year and would have doubled the harvest for 50 years, according to federal land management agencies.

“There is clear momentum in Congress for the idea that we need the safety net - unencumbered with unrealistic logging levels - as well as separate legislation that gets the harvest up,” Wyden said.  

The extension was attached to a larger package of legislation to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program and to update, improve and make permanent the formula for paying doctors and other health care providers who treat Medicare patients.