cuts timber payments
February 7, 2006 by ANGELA
The Bush administration's 2007 budget would cut
timber payments to Klamath County by nearly 60
percent, local politicians say.
The budget proposal worries
county officials, who have used the money to fund a
variety of public programs and projects.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self
Determination Act of 2000, also called the “county
payments program,” doled out money to counties in
the West that were hard hit by the loss of logging
on public lands.
The plan to cut timber funds was included in the
budget released Monday by the Bush administration.
Klamath County has received between $12.9 and $13.2
million a year since 2000 to be used for roads,
schools and forest projects and as a direct cash
infusion to the general fund.
Oregon overall got $280 million, which was
distributed to most counties in the state.
The act expires at the end of this year though, and
county officials like commissioner John Elliott have
been lobbying hard to get the act renewed and keep
the money rolling in.
“The White House has no clue
as to what's been done with those funds in counties
that have been devastated by the Environmental
Species Act,” Elliott said Monday.
“I believe the federal
government has a duty, indeed, an obligation, to
support those counties who have been devastated by
The cuts would drain $880,00 from the county's
$14-million general fund. That's enough to fund
whole departments, Elliott said. It also would mean
whopping cuts to the county's road fund.
Of the $13 million the county receives in federal
payments, $10 million goes to roads, $3.3 million to
schools and $2.2 million to the general fund.
How local school districts'
are affected remains to be seen.
Klamath County School District superintendent Dave
Davis said the schools never saw an increase in
money when the act was approved because the state
doled it out and reduced its own payments to local
school districts accordingly.
“It's hard to get your arms
around something like this ‘cause it's so
complicated in the way it's distributed in the
state,” he said.
The money also was divvied up among every school
district in the state, not just those that had lost
timber revenue, a move Davis thinks is unfair.
Representatives from U.S.
Sen. Ron Wyden's office are still trying to puzzle
out the exact amount President Bush is proposing to
Early estimates were about 50 percent, but late in
the day Monday Wyden officials thought the toll
would be closer to 60 percent.
“Here's one thing that's
safe to say: It is hard to see where Klamath County
would retain even half of its funding under the
current proposal,” said Josh Kardon, Wyden's chief
Kardon said that rural counties in Oregon - those
that supported George Bush - are those who are going
to be the hardest hit by the cuts.
Oregon Reps. Peter DeFazio and Greg Walden issued a
joint statement Monday praising the president for
reauthorizing the program, but questioning the
proposed funding levels. An exact distribution
formula has not been set, but Oregon receives by far
the most under the current program.
Oregon received nearly $147 million this year,
followed by California ($64.6 million), Washington
($41.8 million) and Idaho ($21 million).
DeFazio, a Democrat, said he and Walden, a
Republican, will make a bipartisan effort to
reauthorize the law and fully fund it.
‘‘We have an obligation to support the rural
Oregonians who for decades have been stewards of our
federal lands. Ending the county payments program
would abandon that century-long promise and
economically devastate those communities,'' DeFazio
Walden called the budget proposal ‘‘a starting
point, and a distant one from where we need to
finish,'' a sentiment echoed by Sen. Larry Craig,
A Senate bill backed by Craig and Wyden, and a House
bill by DeFazio and Walden, would each authorize up
to $2.5 billion to nearly 700 counties in 40 states
over seven years.