Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bailout bill renews subsides for schools and roads in national-forest areas, other rural programs

The emergency legislation to ease the credit crisis includes "several billion dollars in education and road funding for some of the nation's most remote communities, through programs aimed at helping areas with large swaths of untaxed federal land," reports Bettina Boxall of the Los Angeles Times. The biggest item was a four-year extension of the eight-year-old program to compensate counties with national-forest land for decreases in logging.

"Rural counties, most of them in the West, have collected about $500 million a year under the program," Boxall writes. "Oregon, California and Washington have been the biggest beneficiaries. The initial round of funding expired two years ago, and since then attempts to extend the program have been buffeted by politics. At one point the Bush administration proposed selling national forest parcels to raise money for the payments. Last year a one-year extension was included in an Iraq war funding bill. This year advocates attached funding proposals to various bills, only to see the money dropped at the last minute. The financial uncertainty prompted widespread cutbacks in school staffing and programs." (Read more)

The bailout bill also contained a four-year extension for the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program, in which the federal government compensates local governments for taking land off the tax rolls, and a one-year extension, to 2010, of the $9 million annual appropriation to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund. For a PDF copy of the 451-page bill, from the Senate Banking Committee's Web site, click here.

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