October 03, 2008

Wyden's Multi-Year County Payments Extension Will Become Law

The President is expected to sign Congressionally approved legislation which includes Wyden-Reid-Bingaman-Baucus Secure Rural Schools Extension

Washington, D.C. - In passing the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" today, the House of Representatives approved a Senate-passed measure to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000 through 2012. The 4-year measure, authored by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) authorizes $3.3 billion for the program commonly known as "county payments," as well as full funding for the Payment in lieu of Taxes Program (PILT). The President announced that he will sign the bill into law this evening. About $740 million will come to Oregon through county payments over that time period.

"Oregon communities across the state can finally breathe a sigh of relief, and I want to thank the bipartisan cooperation of so many who made this possible," said Wyden. "I promised I would attach my legislation to every bill moving in Congress until the job got done, and that's what I did."

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 the 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 Senate once again passed the Wyden-authored measure two weeks ago by a vote of 93-2 as part of the Energy Tax Extenders package, which was awaiting action in the House, when Wyden asked Reid to insert county payments into the Wall Street bailout legislation.

"I particularly want to thank the county commissioners of Oregon, the Association of Oregon Counties, and Doug Robertson, Rocky McVay, Mike McArthur, and Governor Kulongoski, who all worked so hard and so long with me and the delegation to push this over the goal line," said Wyden.

Wyden added, "While this legislation will likely be renewed at the end of four years, there are no guarantees, so I want the Oregon congressional delegation, the Governor, and all interested parties to use the next year to brainstorm on ways to address the long-term funding needs of our rural counties. We will now have the breathing room to begin that effort."