The federal government’s across-the-board spending cuts could hit soon in Western Oregon. Congressman Greg Walden says the feds plan to apply the so-called sequester cut this week to a program for timber dependent counties.
Eighteen Oregon counties are supposed to receive their last check from the Secure Rural Schools program this month. The program was created by congress to aid timber counties impacted by reductions in logging after the listing of the spotted owl, and has sent hundreds of millions of dollars to southern and western Oregon.
Congressman Walden, R-Ore., says he was shocked to learn the federal government is cutting the last payment by 10 percent.
“We’re pushing back, and pushing back hard, because the checks are about to be issued. And once they make a decision and issue the checks, the likelihood of getting them to come back and do what’s right is pretty thin.“
Walden voted for the sequester, a package of across-the-board spending cuts that take effect in March. But he says it shouldn’t apply to the secure rural schools program because it was part of last year’s budget.
The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for making the payments. In a written statement, BLM spokesman Jeff Kraus said that according to his agency’s interpretation, the Secure Rural Schools account is subject to the sequester.
“In order to be prepared if there is a sequestration, Interior took the prudent step to hold back 10 percent of the scheduled payments. We understand the importance of these funds to the viability of western Oregon counties in support of county projects and local schools. The BLM has distributed the majority of the Secure Rural Schools payments, totaling approximately $36 million,” he wrote.