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Wyden tacks renewed county funding onto budget


Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., fought to restore a crucial lifeline for roads, schools and first-responders in Oregon’s cash-strapped rural communities, in an amendment he attached to the federal budget bill on Thursday.

Wyden’s amendment is a first step to renewing the expired Secure Rural Schools program, which provided more than $107 million to 32 Oregon counties last year.

It also supports the extension of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The amendment passed in the Senate Budget Committee on a bipartisan, 18 to 4 vote. The committee was expected to finish its markup of the budget Thursday night.

“These programs are economic investments in rural America, providing consistent, reliable resources that counties can use to prosper,” Wyden said. “Secure Rural Schools, Payments in Lieu of Taxes, and programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund are three parts of the rural economic trifecta, each supporting rural counties’ ability to provide critical services and boost their economies.”

Wyden and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, introduced a bill to extend the county payments program last month. Wyden authored the original Secure Rural Schools program in 2000 with then-Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Since then it has brought more than $2.8 billion to rural Oregon counties.

Wyden is a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee and the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

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