Secure school timber money part of bailout

“Great news- great news,” said Jackson County Commissioner C.W. Smith in a phone call last Friday afternoon saying the commissioners had watched the House of Representatives vote on the bailout bill. The  bill included the Secure Rural Schools & Community Self Determination Act funding for some $1.684 billion for four years.

Often referred to as the O&C money bill, according to C.W. Smith, Oregon should realize about $250 million from the bill and Jackson county should see approximately $20 million to start with.

Senator Gordon Smith arrived at the Jackson County Courthouse Friday morning to join the commissioners and others, including John Snider from Rep. Greg Walden’s office, and two Klamath Falls commissioners to  watch the vote. The senator knew the House had the vote secured before he arrived.

The House vote was 263-171.

“I think there have been at least eight attempts, maybe more to get the funding,” said C.W. Smith.

Funding ended in 2006. The Jackson County Libraries closed, Josephine County has cut their services drastically as has Coos County.

“Oregonians are as upset as I am about how the abuses on Wall Street are now inflicting damage on all Americans wherever they live and forcing Congress to take this action to prevent even worse damage to taxpayers,” said Walden as he referred to the bailout.

“While this measure is neither perfect nor politically popular, it is certainly better than what the Bush Administration originally sent to Congress. Gone is a blank check to the Treasury Department. And we stopped those on the other side of the aisle from putting really bad provisions into this measure, ” said Walden. “Gone are provisions to fund liberal, activist organizations. And we all agreed to stop giant corporate golden parachutes for those who participate in this rescue. This measure now ensures oversight protection for taxpayers, It puts taxpayers first in line to get paid back. It prohibits debt relief to foreign countries for foreign properties. And it has the potential to slow job losses and get people back to work.”

Walden continued, “For rural Oregonians, we finally succeeded in reauthorizing and funding our county timber payments program for the next four years, and we fully fund Payment in Lieu of Taxes through 2012. This is an enormous victory for our Oregon schools, counties, library, road departments and law enforcement agencies. Counties and schools can now restore essential services and real, family wage jobs.”

The bill presents many Oregon households from having to pay the alternative minimum tax and extends tax relief for qualified college tuition.  It also extends child tax credit.
C.W. Smith said if and when the money arrives it will go into the reserve account. Then he will call the budget committee together to see if there are any changes to be made. He hopes the committee can be called together in December.

“Today’s action by Congress on the economic rescue bill is welcomed news for Oregon, particularly at a time when families across Oregon are worried about the increasing costs in living and concerned if their retirement investments will be there when they need them,” said Gov. Kulongoski.

“The bill Congress passed includes a critical extension of the county payments program, providing the financial bridge we need to prepare for the eventual loss of the program. It is essential that we use the time we have been given through this temporary extension to roll up our sleeves and work together to find common and lasting solutions,” said the governor.

“The task force I created is still developing final recommendations for how federal, state and local governments can work together to implement a plan that allows our counties to continue to provide critical services in their communities. I praise those who supported this retooled rescue plan that is a life line for businesses and communities of all sizes. I believe it is what our country needs and what Oregon needs during this uncertain time,” concluded the governor.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent

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