Congressman Kurt Schrader today applauded Congressional passage of a long-term surface transportation reauthorization that includes a one-year extension of Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and reduced student loan interest rates, as well as the formula fund flexibility.
"I applaud the House for passing a bipartisan, fully paid-for transportation conference agreement negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell," Schrader said. "While not perfect, this extension gives Oregon's struggling timber counties, transit and construction companies and undergraduates the security they need to plan for their long-term success. Most importantly, these investments serve as a boost of confidence for Oregon companies to invest, expand and create quality Oregon jobs now and later on down the road."
"I am excited that a one year Secure Rural Schools reauthorization was included in the final conference report. This will greatly help struggling Oregon counties amend their public services, such as law enforcement and criminal justice system and the cuts they are currently suffering. With this extension, I am committed to working with Congress to securing long term solutions that will create jobs, boost our economy, and sustainably manage our forests so our counties can be prosperous again." Craig Pope, Polk County Commissioner
"As Congress works to pass a long term transportation bill, I wanted to praise the efforts of Congressman Schrader to ensure our transit agency has the resources to get people to work, school and play in our community. In particular, Schrader championed legislative language that will allow SKT and other smaller transit providers to use federal formula funds for operations. This flexibility will help our system avoid further service cuts at no cost to the federal government. I appreciate the common sense legislation and the leadership provided by Congressmen Schrader." Allan Pollock, General Manager of Salem-Keizer Transit
Included in the transportation reauthorization is a one-year Secure Rural Schools reauthorization, which provides $38 million to Oregon's crippled timber counties. Otherwise known as County Timber Payments, the authorization was created in 2000 to offset lost revenues from decreasing timber sales on public lands. These payments help our rural communities pay for public services and will aid with the budget crises our counties are facing. With this extension, federal, state and local officials and their partners will be able to work together to find a sustainable, long-term solution that will allow our counties to be prosperous and self-sufficient once again.
The formula fund flexibility allows smaller transit agencies, with populations exceeding 200,000, to use a portion of their formula funds for operations, instead of only capital expenditures and preventative maintenance. The problem being transit funds are not scaled up like other transportation formulas, and this allows transit agencies the flexibility to meet the needs of their riders. If the reauthorization had not passed, transit agencies like Salem-Keizer Transit would have been forced to cut services an additional 13%, having already suffered a 26% cut in services since 2006.
The surface transportation reauthorization also extends the current 3.4 percent loan rate on need-based student loans through July 1, 2013. Under current law, the rate would have doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012. If Congress were to allow the current fixed interest rate of 3.4% to expire, more than 7 million undergraduate students nationwide, and over 200,000 Oregonians, would have owed an extra $1,000 annually on average in interest on their loans.