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Funding for counties pulled in the Senate

by Ty Beaver, Herald and News 12/14/07

   Funding to extend federal timber payments to rural Northwest counties, including Klamath, was removed Thursday from an energy bill being considered by the U.S. Senate.
   U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., in a statement criticized the move as another failure of Congress, which has yet to pass many of the federal government’s spending bills.
   “This place is dysfunctional,” Walden said in the press release.
   T he pay ments prov ided $15 million to Klamath County in 2006 and are used to fund public works projects and schools and to supplement the county’s general fund. The last payments were distributed in late November.
   The latest attempt to extend the payments would have provided $1.8 billion through 2011. The payments would decrease by about 10 to 15 percent each year.
   Staff with U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said the payments were removed from the bill along with tax increases to oil companies in order to move it through the Senate.
   “Sen. Smith was concerned that the prospects of passage would be caught up in partisan bickering surrounding the energy bill,” said spokeswoman Lindsay Gilbride in an e-mail.
   If the altered bill passes the Senate, it would have to be resubmitted to the House, where the bill passed earlier with the county payments included. The earliest the House could see the bill is Monday morning.
   Both Smith and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in press releases they would continue to fight for the payments and have them in place before Congress’ holiday recess.
   Gilbride said the next bill Smith would attempt to attach a timber payment extension to is a catch-all spending bill.
Staff at the office of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., did not immediately return calls.
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