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Rural Counties Face Sharp Funding Cuts for Roads, Schools

After the political dust settled from last year's largely grid-locked Congress, budget writers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington had to deal with sizable holes in their expected income. Most federal government functions were funded as lawmakers scrambled to authorize money before the 113th Congress ground to a halt. But a provision vital to many rural counties in the three northwest states was axed in the US House.

Because the Secure Rural Schools program was not funded, counties with large areas of nontaxable federal forest land must fall back and rely on a revenue-sharing law more than a century old. The 1908 law allocates a quarter of timber cutting revenue to the states. But income from logging on federal land has fallen sharply since the 1980s.

Last year Idaho counties took in more than 28-million dollars from the Secure Rural Schools program. But this year, they can expect only about 2-million dollars.

The story's the same in Oregon - from 68-million dollars last year, to under 6-million this year. And in Washington - 21-million down to just over 2-million dollars.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden vowed he'll do everything he can to shove a funding bill through the new Congress. And even though he's now in the minority, he may get some help from Idaho's two Republican senators, now in the majority power seat.

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