County payments stay alive in Congress

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) -- A glimmer of hope has arisen in Congress for extending federal payments to rural timber counties, but even if it comes, the money remains far short of what counties need to stave off painful cuts.

The House this week passed a transportation bill, raising the possibility it could be melded with a Senate version that has an amendment extending $106.4 million in payments to Oregon timber counties for one more year.

Sen. Ron Wyden's office says as long as no one in the House actively opposes it, county payments should be in the final bill.

In Josephine County, which has long depended on the payments, County Commissioner Simon Hare says the payments would cover just a third of the $12 million budget hole the county is facing.