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Secure Rural Schools funding renewed by House

As of Wednesday, Sept. 25, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a one-year extension of the county timber payments, also known as the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act.

Both Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) applauded this action, noting the need continues for long-term funding solutions in Oregon’s forested communities.

“This measure provides short-term relief to rural communities teetering on the edge of bankruptcy,” Walden said. “But, let’s be clear: this help is a lifeline, not a life boat.  The status quo of asking Uncle Sam for a check year after year is not unsustainable.  However, managing our federal forests to create jobs and revenue?  That’s sustainable.”

Sen. Merkley’s comments echoed those of Walden, who noted the continued economic struggles of Oregon’s timber-reliant counties.

“This is welcome news for Oregon’s timber counties,” he said.  “Too many of our counties are deeply struggling and have endured additional hardship because Congress failed to extend county payments earlier this year.  This extension will not solve every problem, but it is an essential and badly needed lifeline.”

The one-year extension was included in the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act (H.R. 527), which prevents imminent shortage helium and also reforms the federal helium program to ensure the best return for taxpayers.

The Senate approved this act as of Sept. 19, while the House approved its version of the helium authorization, minus the SRS funding, in April.

The legislation was then submitted to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

Lake County Commissioner Dan Shoun said that the funding should be on par with last year’s payment of about $1.9 million, and should find its way to the county by January 2014.

“It’s a good thing,” Shoun said, noting that the action by Congress reflects a continuity and consistency from visits with such state dignitaries as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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