Thursday, June 20, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
July 02, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congress has passed a one-year renewal of the federal timber payments to counties.
The provision was attached to a two-year surface transportation bill that passed Friday on a 373-52 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and a 74-19 vote in the U.S. Senate. The bill now needs President Obama's signature.
The reauthorization will send $346 million to counties across the nation. About $100 million will go to Oregon.
Of that, about $800,000 will go to Polk County, but the payment likely won't be sent until late this year or early 2013.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Ainsworth said the county will likely put the funds in reserve.
"I believe the money won't come until after the first of the year," Ainsworth said. "We are not going to rehire the employees laid off (to work) just for six months."
Ainsworth said the more prudent move would be to start planning for the 2013-14 budget.
"Looking forward to next year, we have a PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) payment that will go up about $300,000 or $400,000," he said. "Our health insurance premiums went up 17 percent this year. What are they going to do next year? I think we would be doing a huge disservice if we brought those employees back."
County officials have discussed purchasing new vehicles for the Sheriff's Office if the payments were renewed. That is still a possibility, Ainsworth said.
"Other than that, we are going to hunker down and get ready for next year," he said. "It may have been different if this were a multiyear reauthorization. But it's just a one-year deal and we have no guarantee of more than that."
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden had the reauthorization included in the Senate version of the transportation bill in March. A House and Senate conference committee, which includes Oregon Reps. Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenhauer, kept the provision in the final package. Rep. Greg Walden also worked with the Republican leadership to secure the reauthorization.