'Anything is better than nothing'

'Anything is better than nothing'

EUGENE, Ore. -  President Obama's new budget plan includes money to help Lane County and other counties that historically counted on timber revenues for a big chunk of their budget.

Congress made up for lost revenues with direct payments from the federal treasury to these counties to help pay for schools and law enforcement.

The Secure Rural Schools and Communities - originally known as the "Craig-Wyden" bill after the Northwest senators who authored it - has been renewed once.

Barely.

And now timber states are back asking Congress to chip in more federal dollars in exchange for those vast tracts of federally managed public lands on which Uncle Sam doesn't pay a penny in property taxes.

But the new chairman of the Lane County Commission says the president's budget may be too little, too late.

It's all very early, but the President's $3.8 trillion dollar spending plan tries to keep federal timber payments going 3 more years.

The price tag: $294 million.

The money would go to counties nationwide in 2013.  Commissioner Sid Leiken says Lane County's share the first year would be about $4 million, a fraction of former payments and the timber receipts the county shared with the federal government.

Leiken told KVAL News anything is better than nothing, but added that the money likely won't prevent the worst of the anticpated county budget cuts from happening this spring.

"But if they do agree on a federal budget, the potential of that money coming back to the counties is long after we've gone through our budget process, so that would maybe count toward next year," Leiken said. "But for this year, we're going to have to go through with the approximately $13 to $14 million in cuts."

If the money doesn't go through, officials said they'll be forced to make heavy cuts to the Lane County Sheriff's Office and other departments.  

Congress began awarding the money after federal laws in the 1990s greatly restricted the amount of logging on public lands and put the squeeze on county budgets.