GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Rural counties in Southern Oregon and Northern California are being told to pay back millions of dollars in federal timber payments.
In a statement, both Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkely say rural communities should not have to pay the price for poor sequester cuts by Washington politicians.
While that issue is still being worked out at our nation’s capitol, state politicians in Salem are working on ways to help rural counties who have fallen on hard times. Several bills are being proposed in Salem to help rural Oregon counties hit hard by the lack of timber payments.
Senate Bill 581 extends the window for counties to declare a fiscal emergency in the county. Locally, however, Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare says that bill would not have too much of an impact because he expects the county to always be able to supply the bare minimum of services, especially at a public safety level which includes a sheriff, jail bed and ability to serve civil papers.
“Now that’s the state required minimum level of service and we will always be able to provide that here in Josephine County based on the general fund dollars that we have,” said Commissioner Hare.
Commissioner Hare did show support for House Bill 3456 co-sponsored by Representative Wally Hicks of Grants Pass. The proposed bill would allow counties to withhold the cost of collecting property taxes and assessing property value, a move hare says would save the county about $700,000 which would go back into the general fund.