While Gordon Smith dithers, Ron Wyden leads.
Senator Wyden has just announced a multi-year deal on the county payments issue - along with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), and Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), three critical players.
The proposal, to be included in the supplemental budget bill, will commit $5 billion to rural communities through 2012 - over $1 billion of which will head to Oregon.
From the statement, just released:
“I applaud Senator Wyden's persistence in fighting for Oregon's rural communities,” Reid said. “This Democratic package represents a renewed Federal commitment to the people of Oregon, the rural West and the nation. Though we still have a ways to go to get this into law, I am hopeful that our proposal, including a significant and long-term increase in funding for Payments in Lieu of Taxes, will make a very positive impact on rural America."
“Today’s proposal is a good example of what working together can accomplish,” Baucus said. “I’m glad that we’ve reached an agreement to pump more dollars into our rural counties while keeping our public lands intact. The Administration challenged Congress to develop a plan to fund this program without selling public lands. That’s what we’ve done.”
“With Senator Reid’s leadership we have crafted a lifeboat to keep rural communities afloat,” Wyden said. “This proposal will mean more than $1 billion for Oregon schools, public safety, roads, and other essential county services. It couldn’t come at a more critical time.”
We'll update here with more coverage as it becomes available. For an easy-to-understand primer on county payments, head to Ron Wyden's Stand Tall for America website.