Wednesday, 12 June 2024

House approves one-year extension of county payments

On Thursday night, the House of Representatives passed an emergency spending bill that would provide much-needed funding for rural schools, the Pacific salmon fisheries disaster, agricultural disaster relief and wildfire emergencies.

HR 2207 passed with a strong bipartisan vote of 302-120, according to Congressman Mike Thompson's office.

The bill would provide $425 million for a one-year extension of the county payments law, known officially as the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, Thompson reported.

Lake County receives funds from that bill, which allocates money for rural schools and roads based on historic timber receipts. The county's most recent payment was about $1 million, according to local school and county officials.

The county payments law ran out last year, and the 109th Congress failed to pass a renewal bill, as Lake County News previously reported.

Provisions to extend the bill were then included in a recent Iraq War supplemental bill, which President Bush vetoed earlier this month because, among other things, it included timelines for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The bill also includes $60.4 million for California and Oregon's commercial salmon fishing industry, a provision introduced by Thompson. The relief is needed for fishermen, tribes and businesses impacted by the commercial fishery failure of 2006, which Thompson's statement attributed to irresponsible Bush Administration water policies.

"The emergency relief for our salmon industry is long overdue," said Thompson. "Last year's commercial salmon fishing closure was the largest in U.S. history. The affected families and businesses need aid right away, and the president's claim that they should take out loans is illustrative of his disconnect from the real needs of working Americans."

"Due to the fishing closure last year, my business lost $50,000," said Deniel Caouette, owner of Deniel's Place Café in Klamath. "That may not seem like much to the president, but we're holding on by a thread and his suggestion that we just 'borrow' the money reveals how out of touch he is with plight of working people on the Klamath River."

In addition, the bill includes $500 million for wildland firefighting, and money for agriculture disaster relief.

A Bush statement of administration policy, issued May 10, said if presented with the bill, the president would veto it, calling the $7 billion included in the bill “unrequested spending that is unjustified and not appropriate for an emergency spending bill.”

In addition, the administration said the bill circumvents the new House “pay-as-you-go” rule and stretches the definition of “emergency.” The statement called the $500 million in wildfire suppression activities the bill proposes as “unnecessary, saying this year Congress has appropriated enough funding for such emergencies.

Regarding the county payments law provisions, the statement noted that the administration has “serious concerns” with the bill's provisions, and that the president has proposed his own “responsible” extension for the law that includes funding for a more sustainable level of timber harvest, with phase-out provisions.

"This president says he wants to leave no child behind while simultaneously keeping funding out of our schools," continued Thompson. "This veto signals that he doesn't care about getting rural students a good education."

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden also took issue with the administration statement. “To say that the closing of jails, schools and libraries as is occurring right now in my district and in others is not somehow an emergency is to simply ignore reality of what's happening in the rural west. It is outrageous.”

Walden said the federal government has failed to properly fund wildfire suppression, with 10 million acres of federal land burning last year at a cost of $1.5 billion to taxpayers to extinguish those fires. He said the government also has failed to replant those forestlands.

"Without funding, our county schools are at severe risk," said Jan Moorehouse, Superintendent of Del Norte County Unified School District. "These funds should have been secured last year and the president's callous disregard demonstrates he is ignorant to the needs of rural communities in the West."

The spending bill, entitled the Agriculture Disaster Assistance and Western States Emergency Unfinished Business Appropriations Act of 2007, now goes to a vote in the Senate.

Thompson's office reports there is enough support in the House to override the president's veto.

To view Rep. Thompson's floor speech click here:

To see the White House statement of administration policy, visit

To learn more about the bill, visit and search for HR 2207.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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