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O&C Counties to Receive Nearly $1.4 million in Withheld Timber Payments

The Association of O&C Counties Thursday announced a breakthrough in discussions with the Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding $1.39 million in timber payments withheld by the federal government earlier this year.

Posted: Nov. 30, 2017 12:46 PM
Updated: Nov. 30, 2017 12:48 PM

The Association of O&C Counties Thursday announced a breakthrough in discussions with the
Department of the Interior and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regarding $1.39
million in timber payments withheld by the federal government earlier this year.

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"We are happy to report the 18 O&C Counties will be receiving those withheld payments very soon," said
Commissioner Tim Freeman of Douglas County, the Association's President. "We give full
credit to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Acting Assistant Secretary Scott Cameron and Acting
Interior Solicitor Dan Jorjani for their willingness to work with us to persuade OMB to release
these funds. We are also grateful to Congressman Walden for his assistance in facilitating
communications between the Association and the Department of the Interior."

The disputed funds were withheld as part of a government-wide "sequestration" of 6.9 percent of
all spending. Sequestration is required by federal statute when the total of all government
spending exceeds certain budget caps. The amount sequestered in any given year varies
depending on the level of government spending compared to the applicable budget caps. For
federal fiscal year 2016, sequestration was set at 6.9 percent.

The 18 O&C Counties receive a share of receipts from the sale of timber harvested from 2.1
million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the Department of
the Interior.

"When we received our timber payments in January for fiscal year 2016, we were
shocked to find they were short by 6.9 percent" said Commissioner Freeman. "Our budgets are
already under terrible pressure and the sequestration made a bad situation even worse. Having
those payments restored does not cure our larger budget problems but it sure helps fill a few
gaps. Every County will use these much-needed funds for vital services according to their local
priorities, from public safety and juvenile programs to elections departments and infrastructure
maintenance, and everything in between.

The Association has been working with the Department of the Interior since March to identify a
way to restore the sequestered payments. Secretary Zinke, Assistant Secretary Cameron and
Solicitor Jorjani recognized that O&C timber payments are not ordinary government "spending."
Because timber sale receipts are placed in a special account in the U.S. Treasury set up in 1916
for the benefit of the 18 O&C Counties, they are not subject to sequestration in the usual way.
OMB was persuaded and this week authorized release of the withheld funds.

For more information contact Rocky McVay at 541-412-1624 or rocky@blupac.com

Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare said in an email that Josephine County's portion is roughly 12 percent, which is about $168,337. Hare said this was not expected and is something he has been working on for more than a year. Hare said this will affect this year's share receipt payment and all future shared timber receipt payments. 

"6.9 percent Sequestration at $2.2 million (last year's payment) it doesn't mean nearly as much to Josephine County as it would if timber harvest/price of timber increases in the future. Our historic average sustained yield timber harvest share receipt payment used to be in excess of $10 million per year; that's non-tax payer based revenue to pay for law enforcement and other vital County services," Hare wrote. 

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