House defeats timber payments bill
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) ” The House Thursday defeated a bill that would have
continued payments to rural counties hurt by federal cutbacks in logging.
A majority of lawmakers voted for the bill, but under special House rules,
the bill was defeated. Supporters had brought up the bill under rules that
did not allow any amendments. The 218-193 vote in favor of the bill “
largely along party lines was well short of the required two-thirds
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., denounced Republicans who
voted against the bill, saying the vote dealt a huge blow to rural counties
in Oregon and other Western states.
Many counties in southwest Oregon are about to lay off employees by the
hundreds, DeFazio said ” a scenario that could be repeated in rural counties
across the country.
“We’re losing sheriffs patrols, jail beds, teachers and other vital public
services,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio accused Republicans of siding with “already profit-rich oil and gas
companies” instead of rural counties and schools.
But Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said DeFazio and majority Democrats were to
blame for bringing up a flawed bill. Walden and other Republicans criticized
DeFazio’s plan to pay for the timber program by charging oil companies for
royalties they should have paid the government but did not because of a
government error on drilling leases in the late 1990s.
DeFazio said the plan merely closes a loophole created when the Clinton
administration failed to include a threshold requiring royalty payments by
oil companies once market prices reach a certain level. Recovering money
lost from the flawed 1998-1999 leases has been a priority of lawmakers from
both parties for years.
But Walden and other Republicans said the plan would face a likely court
challenge and could violate terms of federal contracts with oil and gas
“We repeatedly warned the sponsor of the bill and Democratic leadership that
their strategy of stripping PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) and paying for
this bill by illegally breaking federal contracts would fail,” Walden said.
“Today’s outcome was as predictable as it was unnecessary.”
Walden, who supports the timber program, said he would work with DeFazio to
find an alternative way to pay for it.
“It’s time to get this issue back on a positive track and adopt real
solutions for our rural counties,” he said.
But DeFazio said any attempt by Republicans to expand offshore drilling in
the Gulf Of Mexico even as a way to pay for the timber program was
doomed to fail.
Lawmakers from both parties have tried for several years to salvage the
program, which helps pay for schools, roads and public safety in 700 rural
counties in 39 states. Oregon gets the largest sum of money.
On the Net:
The bill is H.R. 3058. Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov
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