Wyden: Senators agree on continued county payments

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon says he's got enough backing in the U.S. Senate to pass a bill renewing special payments to rural timber counties in 41 states hurt by a decline in logging on federal lands.

But prospects for the aid remain uncertain in the Republican-controlled House with its tough budget rules.

Wyden said Wednesday a bill to be introduced bill next week in the Senate would extend the aid for five years, cutting rates 5 percent a year.

The Secure Rural Schools Act was enacted in 2000. It expired at the end of September, and the last payments go out this winter.

Counties in rural Western Oregon in particular say renewing the money is crucial to funding law enforcement, schools and other services.