Federal Timber Funds Extended One Year

, Posted: Sun, July 8 2012 at 6:41 PM, Updated: Sun, July 8 2012 at 7:21 PM

Timber payments for struggling counties have been extended by Congress for one more year.

However, Josephine County Commissioner Harold Haugen said it's the worst news he could get,

"They kept say we're going to get this and then they were a month late, basically."

Haugen said the one-year extension came too late. He said Commissioners lost credibility with residents when a tax measure to fund public safety was put on the ballot. It wasn't until the measure failed, that the decision to extend timber payments was made.

Some residents said they would not vote for the measure because they believed the federal government would end up bailing out Josephine County.

"The people that were voting felt, 'Well gee, I don't need to vote for it, we're going to get the money," recalled Haugen.

According to Haugen, the county will have roughly $4.5-million to work with. While Senator Ron Wyden said counties will be getting 95% of what they received last year, Haugen said it's still too little, too late.

"It's a drop in the bucket," he said.

While Senator Ron Wyden said he helped pass the transportation bill with the one-year timber payment, he said people should not expect much more help from the federal government.

"I have been able to get this law authorized and renewed, comes to about four times. This has been the toughest," said Wyden.

In Grants Pass, Commissioner Haugen said the extension doesn't do much for the long term.

"Senator Wyden and those folks may think this is the greatest thing since ice cream, but it isn't. It isn't going to fix our problem," said Haugen.

Now the big question is, does the county save the money? Or put it back into public safety?

"It's a real challenge for us and I guess what i'm asking [...] is we'd like to hear back from people in the community," said Haugen.

Cash-strapped counties in Oregon will have one more year to figure out a more permanent solution.

Commissioner Haugen said he's leaning toward saving the money.

He said even if the county used the extra dollars for public safety, they would have to cut back again next year because they'll still have less money than years previous.

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