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County funds likely dead

Rep. Walden tells commissioners not to expect timber payments this year
By Ty Beaver, Herald and News 6/20/08

   There likely will be no federal timber payments coming to Klamath County or other rural counties this year.
   A one-year extension of the payments was removed from a $184 billion House emergency supplemental bill Thursday. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, ROre., said Thursday he talked with county commissioners and told them not to expect the funds this year.
   “The train left the station, and we’ve been left at the platform,” said Walden.
   The congressman said the emergency supplemental bill was the last chance for a oneyear extension this year. He will now focus his efforts on a fouryear extension that wouldn’t take effect until next year.
   Rural counties nationwide received about $400 million from the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act.
   The money was compensation to counties that saw a decline in logging because of environmental regulations.
   Oregon counties received $280 million and Klamath County received about $15 million from the payments in 2007. Congress struggled to reauthorize the legislation for the past two years. A one-year extension was approved in May 2007.
   Walden doesn’t know why the extension was removed from the House version of the bill. The b i l l p r o v id e s f u nd i n g for the wars in Iraq and A fghanistan and other domestic and international programs.
   The Senate included the payments in its version of the bill and congressional staffers said President Bush indicated he would sign it.
   “If that is the case, that is very disappointing,” said Tom Towslee, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
   There is a chance the payments would be extended, but it’s slim.
   The House and Senate would have to meet in conference committee to reconcile their differences and the payments could survive the process, Towslee said.
   Walden said there could be a few bills in the next few months that a one-year extension could be attached to, but it would be an uphill battle to do so.
   The congressman said he will continue to advocate for a four-year extension that would fund timber payments and additional federal compensation to counties by expanding offshore oil drilling.
   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and members of the House Committee for Appropriations did not return calls from the Herald and News requesting comment.
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