U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has helped secure a one year extension of county payments today in the final House and Senate agreement on a long-term transportation reauthorization. A member of the House Republican Leadership, Walden has worked with his colleagues in the House to secure the funding for rural counties.
"This one year extension gives us the breathing room we need to continue our bipartisan and delegation-wide work toward a long-term solution that brings jobs back into the forests to create revenues that keep essential local services like schools and law enforcement afloat," Rep. Walden said.
The funding, at about $300 million nationwide for one year, will provide about $100 million for Oregon's cash-strapped rural counties and schools.
Earlier this year, Rep. Walden received a commitment from the highest levels of the House Republican leadership to secure a one year extension of county payments.
"I have consistently said we need a period of short-term bridge funding to sustain our rural communities until a long-term solution takes effect," Rep. Walden said. "Some counties are already facing extreme budget challenges absent the federal government keeping up its commitment to rural communities. I impressed on my colleagues the urgency of this situation. Josephine County had to release inmates from its jails. The federal government, which owns the lion's share of land in our rural forested communities, must be a better neighbor."
"The status quo of asking the federal government for a check year after year is not sustainable," Rep. Walden said. "Our counties are heading over a fiscal cliff. They need certainty. Our people need jobs. And the forests need to be managed, for now and the future. This one year lifeline is a bridge, not a solution. I will forge ahead with bipartisan work with Reps. DeFazio and Schrader and the Natural Resource Committee to change federal forest policies so we can get Oregonians back to work in the woods."
The final agreement, which was agreed to by the bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate, must now be passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President.