The Administration appreciates the progress that has been made to improve
H.R. 2389. The Administration, however, must strongly oppose the manager's
amendment that will be offered in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 2389.
The amendment would continue to link timber sales to an annual federal
payment to states, distributed for the benefit of schools and roads in
counties where federal forest and public domain lands are located.
Further, it provides no assured payment to the roughly 800 counties
Because federal lands reduce a county's property tax base, the Federal
Government returns a percentage of revenues generated from those lands,
chiefly in the form of timber sales, to the states to fund county schools
and road maintenance. The need to address environmental concerns on
federal lands, however, has caused a reduction in timber sales over the
last ten years and a corresponding reduction in the federal payments. To
offset the fiscal impact of this reduction in federal payments, the
Administration proposed legislation that would provide for permanent,
stable payments, made directly from the Treasury. These payments would be
greater than the current payments and, importantly, sever the link between
timber sales and county education and road maintenance needs.
In contrast, while the amendment could possibly increase payments to
states, it would not provide a stable, reliable source of funding. The
amendment would continue to rely on fluctuating timber sales receipts, as
well as unpredictable discretionary appropriations, rather than mandatory
appropriations, as the Administration proposed.
In addition, the amendment would require counties to use 20 percent of
their currently received federal payments to fund projects on federal land,
thus reducing funding for schools and road maintenance. Any revenues
generated from projects focused on commodity production would be placed in
a new trust fund to be used for additional projects, thus encouraging more
commercial timber harvesting to fund additional projects. Overall, the
amendment expands the purposes for which timber proceeds could be used to
include special local police costs. Schools, roads, and certain local
police activities would depend on timber harvesting and other revenue
generating activities for funding.
Lastly, the amendment would establish both local and national advisory
committees with membership weighted in favor of commodity and revenue
generating interests, instead of providing equal representation of all
An amendment may be offered to allow all counties to keep 100 percent of
their payment for schools and roads. Without such language, 14 states
could receive less funding for schools and roads than they received in
1998. The Administration believes that Congress should allow the local
governments the current discretion to spend this money as they think most
appropriate, as provided in this amendment. The Administration would
support such this amendment.
The Administration supports the dual goals of providing for a permanent,
stable federal payment for schools and roads and managing forests in an
ecologically sustainable manner. The Administration stands ready to work
with the House and the Senate to craft an acceptable bill.