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Oregon's Cash-Poor Timber Counties Hopeful Over Reform Package


Cash-poor Southern Oregon’s counties are hopeful the recently-passed package of public safety reforms will provide budget relief. House Bill 31-94 modified some of the state’s sentencing laws.  

It also offers rewards to counties that can reduce their jail populations while maintaining public safety. State Representative Chris Garrett co-chairs the Committee that worked on the bill. 

While Garrett says lawmakers were especially aware of the plight of the timber-dependent counties. Those governments face budget crises with the end of federal timber subsidies. 

Garrett explained, “Many of the counties don’t have the money to pay for their own community safety infrastructure. They are reliant on what they get from the state community corrections budget. What this bill is going to enable to let us do is reverse the decline.”

Josephine County’s jail is only staffed at about one-third of capacity. Officials there hope to restore several positions in community corrections as a result of the new funding. 

Lane County expects to receive at least $2.5 million for public safety. 

Governor Kitzhaber praised the bill, with its expected savings of $17 million statewide over the next two years. 

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