Oregon counties financially strapped by the end of federal forest payments will get some relief thanks to a last-day bill passed the Legislature this week.
State lawmakers Monday approved House Bill 4175, which enables counties to use money previously designated for roads to pay for sheriff’s patrols, reported The Oregonian. The passage of the law comes at a time when counties are having a hard time providing basic services.
While federal forest payments that helped to fuel their local economies are gone, many of the counties have large road fund reserves, a portion of federal timber harvest revenue, that before Monday’s vote, couldn’t be used for anything else, the newspaper reported.
Revenue from logging on federal land has dropped sharply in the past 2o years, so Congress sent millions in Secure Rural Schools payments starting in 2000. That program ended and the final checks were disbursed this year, which left several counties without funds to replace that revenue. Voters in some counties defeated measures that would have filled the void with increased property taxes, the newspaper reported.
The part of the new legislation that allow the transfer of the road funds sunsets in January 2016. The second portion of the bill enables counties to transfer the money for law enforcement services, but it must be paid back within three years.