Senate joins House in approving county timber payments bill

The U.S. Senate passed a bill Tuesday that includes an extension of payments to Oregon timber counties that have seen a dramatic decrease in logging on federal lands because of environmental concerns. The county payments legislation was included in an unrelated measure that adjusted and made permanent the formula for paying doctors and other health care providers who treat Medicare patients.
The measure already has been approved by the House and Oregon congressional members say President Obama has indicated he will sign it.
Jackson County would receive about $7.4 million from the measure, down from $7.8 million in 2013-14. County Administrator Danny Jordan previously said roughly $3 million of the allocated funds would go into the county’s general fund. The remainder would go to schools and road funds. When the payments were first enacted, Jackson County received $23 million.
The two-year renewal of the Secure Rural Schools program is expected to bring about $85 million to Oregon counties.
“The badly needed extension of county payments is a lifeline for our rural communities,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said in a release. “We need a long-term solution that will create more jobs in the woods and get more logs to the mills while protecting our environment — but we also need a bridge to get us there. This extension will make a crucial difference for schools, roads and public safety in Oregon.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, sponsored the legislation in a measure that initially sought a three-year extension. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, was among the leaders of the effort to pass the bill in the House.