Bill now includes just year of payments

WASHINGTON — A $5 billion plan to extend payments for five years to rural counties hurt by cutbacks in federal logging was left out of a massive spending bill agreed to by House and Senate negotiators.

Democrats are preparing to send President Bush the $120 billion bill that pays for the war in Iraq through September and would not demand that troops leave Iraq by a certain date.

The bill — the subject of intense negotiations for weeks — does include $425 million for a one-year extension of the payments to timber counties, including Jackson County. The county closed libraries in April because of a budget shortfall caused by the loss of $23 million in federal funding.

The bill does not include a Senate-approved plan to spend about $2.8 billion to continue the county payments law through 2011, and direct another $1.9 billion to rural states as part of a program to reimburse state and local governments for federally owned property.

The failure of House and Senate leaders to include the longer-term solution drew fire from a spokesman for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who said it ignored the needs of rural counties in Oregon and 38 other states.

“The House leadership chose to stand with President Bush instead of with rural counties,” said Josh Kardon, Wyden’s chief of staff.

Kardon vowed that Wyden would bring up the five-year solution “again and again if necessary for the federal government to honor its obligation to the counties.”

— The Associated Press

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