Washington, DC – The budget under consideration by the Senate Budget Committee today will make significant, long-neglected investments into energy, health, housing and education to rebuild the American economy. At the urging of Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, the budget also allows for the extension of county payments when the current program ends in 2011.
“The budget is our opportunity to set priorities for Congress this year and into the future,” said Merkley. “Thanks to the hard work of Senator Wyden and others, our timber-dependent counties can rely on county payments for the next three years, but we need to begin discussing now what comes next. Making sure county payments are part of the budget process lays the groundwork for that discussion.”
“I didn’t work so hard to rescue Oregon counties only to let them go under in five years,” said Wyden. “Senator Merkley demonstrated great leadership in heading up this effort to prepare our delegation for the hard work ahead.”
The county payments reserve fund removes some procedural hurdles for debate on any future legislation. By allowing for an extension of payments in the budget, relevant legislation will not be subject to points of order that require sixty votes to overcome. It also puts the Senate on record as acknowledging that further county payment legislation needs to be on the Congressional agenda.
The budget also includes contains significant investments in the critical areas of health, housing, education, and energy, including:
- Investment in Smart Grid technology and incentives for the development and production of green energy;
- Investment in education and training programs, including increases in the maximum allowable Pell Grant;
- Provisions allowing for the consideration later this year of legislation to fight global warming;
- Provides for health care reform to make health care more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans with a real focus on preventive care; and
- Expansion of affordable housing opportunities.
“Without question, the economic situation facing our country today is dire. Our financial markets are a mess, and more and more people are out of work. In Oregon unemployment rates have skyrocketed by 1 percentage point each of the last five months – we now have more than double digit unemployment. Nearly a quarter of a million Oregonians are out of work,” said Merkley. “We need to address the current crisis we’re in, but that’s not enough. We also need to finally make the investments and tough choices so that our economy over the long haul creates good jobs and leads the world in the 21st century. The budget before us will help put the American economy back on its feet, not just for the short-term but for the long-term as well.”