Here’s an increasingly rare scene, as logs cut in rural Oregon are trucked to either mills or export docks. Although there are logs being shipped overseas to help re-balance America’s terrible trade imbalance, these logs are coming from private, not federal lands. It’s the federal lands that provide rural Oregon counties with the tax revenue to keep law enforcement, roads and schools functioning properly.
The federal program of supporting rural counties, despite very little cutting on federal lands due to the recession, is scheduled to end at the end of September. Some counties like Curry County say if the program is not renewed the county will be on the brink of bankruptcy. Some are saying that harder-hit counties may even have to annex into another counties.
However, word from Washington DC comes that there may be a temporary fix on the horizon. The House of Representatives has approved a one year extension of the current county payments from the feds. It’s up to the U.S. Senate to make it palatable. However, what happens after the year is up it’s anyone’s guess. Some guesses include a warning from Washington that the payments will be the last big rural county subsidy that goes out. Some interpret that as a not-so-subtle-call for small rural counties to band together and to examine their property tax rates. Curry County has one of the lowest property tax rates in the state yet boasts a great number of imported retired Californians who say openly they can’t believe how low their property taxes are. The government’s point exactly.
Although Coos, Curry and Josephine counties have been hit hard by the recession (little federal logging), Lincoln County officials report that they cut the county’s budget early and often to the point that it doesn’t rely very much anymore on federal forest receipts. However, counties like Lane and the three mentioned above do rely on them.
The Senate will be taking up the issue very shortly.