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PILT Funds Come Through For Rural Northwest Counties

Some huge budgetary holes have been filled for scores of rural counties in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Under a newly revived Secure Rural Schools funding program, counties which are home to national forests - land exempt from taxation by local governments - will get in-lieu of tax funds from the federal government.

The US Department of Agriculture announced the funding plan this week.

Oregon is due the largest check this year, about $60.7 million dollars. Idaho is next with just over $25-million, and Washington counties will collect about $19-million. Idaho's Shoshone County - which is home to three large national forests - is a primary beneficiary, scheduled to get 2-point-2 million dollars this year.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo - a member of the Senate Budget Committee - led a push to renew the Secure Rural Schools program in Congress this year.

15 years ago, Wyden and then-Senator Larry Craig of Idaho co-wrote the original Secure Rural Schools program, but political support for it evaporated when the recession forced spending cuts.

Wyden said the plan pumped about 3-billion dollars into rural Oregon counties to compensate for the loss of property taxes from the federal lands, and to pay for schools, roads and bridges.

The new Senate budget includes a two-year renewal of the program.

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