Bush vows to veto bill with amendment to fund local schools and roads
However, Bush vowed to veto the supplemental appropriations bill because it orders him to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 120-days of passage. It also sets a nonbinding goal of ending combat by March 31, 2008.
California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer made the announcement along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Senator Max Baucus, Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell.
According to an update from Bob Douglas, president of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition, at the Web site forestco.tcde.tehama.k12.ca.us, details of the legislation are still being finalized. But a March 20 briefing for organizational leaders revealed the bill proposes a five-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools bill, PL 106-393, from 2007-2012.
It also includes a new national distribution formula based on 50 percent of PL 106-393 receipts levels in 2006 and 50 percent of the funding distributed on the percentage of the national forest acres in each state and county. This calculation for each county will then be adjusted based on per capita income compared to the median per capita income level for all forest counties.
If the county’s per capita income level falls above the median for all counties, then the calculated county payment will be decreased. If the per capita income level is below the median for counties, then the calculated county payment will be increased.
Douglas wrote, “The designers indicate that this mechanism was designed to ensure that future county payments will be directed to those counties most in need of the funding.
The formula will go into effect immediately and result in substantial increases in payments to counties and schools in more than 30 states.
But California, Oregon, and Washington would have taken substantial cuts, except the bill guarantees the three states will be funded for 2007 at the same level they received in 2006.
“Several states are expected to experience varying declines in payments in 2007 under this proposal. Until we see final figures, we cannot comment further on the states and the magnitude of those decreases,” Douglas wrote.
The bill also includes a four-year ramp down starting in 2008. Payments received by all states in 2007 will decrease by 10 percent per year through 2010. In 2011 all states will be transitioned to the new funding formula.
“For California, Oregon, and Washington all counties will decline in funding on an equal basis — 10 percent in 2008, 10 percent in 2009, and 10 percent in 2010. The decline in 2011 will be calculated for these three states, in order to transition to the new funding formula, and all counties in each of those states will be decreased by the same amount in order to complete the transition onto the new funding formula. The authorization for the new law is expected to expire on September 30, 2012.”
Douglas’ update went on to say, “Most importantly, senate leaders have indicated that sufficient budget offsets have been identified to pay for this proposal. The exact nature of the proposed offsets have not been announced to date.”
He said coalition members are “very optimistic about the overall effect of this proposal. This represents an excellent solution.”
Douglas asked supporters to “call your senators and thank them for assisting in putting this package together.”
He also asked coalition members to help with “an all out nationwide grassroots effort to support the Wyden-Bingaman-Baucus amendment to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act (PL 106-393). Please contact friends and relatives in non-western states and ask them to contact their Senators and advocate on our behalf.”
“A veto of the overall bill would put us back to square one,” he wrote.
Because counties don’t receive any property taxes for National Forest land, for more than 90 years the federal government gave 25 percent of timber sales and other receipts from each national forest to split evenly between county schools and road departments.
After timber sales began a dramatic decline in the 1980s, Congress passed PL 106-393, the "Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.” SRS gave Lassen County up to $4 million a year, based on what it historically received from timber sales and other forest receipts. It expired on Sept. 30, 2006.
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