Counties Get First Hand Lesson About Federal Cuts

By Tom Bacon

For some cash-strapped counties in the Inland Northwest, the reality of sequestration has suddenly - and painfully - hit home.

The U-S Department of Agriculture is sending collection letters to counties which receive federal money under the Secure Rural Schools program, demanding that counties in Oregon, for example, which are largely dependent on the money in lieu of taxes, return upwards of three-point-six million dollars.

The collection effort outraged Oregon lawmakers. They quickly added their names to a letter written by freshman Washington Congressman Derek Kilmer protesting the across-the-board cuts.

Kilmer told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak "many of our communities had already dedicated this funding for rural schools, emergency services, infrastructure and wildfire mitigation."

The congressional delegations are also irked that the executive branch is disjointed in its sequestration approach.

The Bureau of Land Management, for example, delayed sending its aid to rural counties - an amount much smaller than the forest service money - until it calculates how much to deduct for the mandatory sequester.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden bluntly told President Obama that - quoting the administration clearly failed to plan for the impact of sequester - and that - "rural communities should not pay the price for bad planning by bureaucrats."
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