Timber payment program ends, challenging legislative session ahead and officials warn Mexico import tax will dampen Oregon trade.
1. Oregon timber payments face 90% cut
Secure Rural Schools, a Forest Service program that provides money to schools, is expiring and taking rural funding with it, the Statesman Journal reports. The state received $86.4 million in 2015 from the Secure Rural Schools program. That amount has been slashed by 91.9% to $7 million. The money funded rural schools, emergency response and road improvements. Sen. Ron Wyden says he’s working with fellow Idaho congressmen to reinstate the program, which he co-authored in 2000.
In other Forest Service news — the agency is withdrawing from the Troutdale Airport. The U.S. Forest Service has had a base in Troutdale since 1984. The service plans to sell its air tankers, which have sat unused for the last several years, the Gresham Outlook reports. USFS will instead utilize its air tankers in Redmond.
2. Upcoming legislative session considered most challenging in recent memory
Oregon legislature is up for a tough session as the state prepares to tackle a $1.7 billion shortfall. Partisan differences are only expected to get worse, the Statesman Journal reports. The struggle is not only fueled by the deficit but constituent demands for more government programs.
3. OB Original Blog: Mexico import tax to dampen Oregon trade, officials say
Mexico is the No. 11 market for Oregon exported goods, and the No. 6 country for goods imported into the state.
4. TriMet buses are dirty
At least the diesel smoke emitted from the vehicles, anyway. This pollution contributes to Portland’s air quality problem, which is among the most diesel-polluted in the county, the Portland Tribune reports. TriMet began retrofitting its engines with clean-air filters in 2011, but promptly stopped with less than half the fleet completed. TriMet officials say they stopped retrofitting because of a lack of funding. But records show TriMet declined to apply for federal grants to fund the remainder of the project for the last seven years.
5. Oregon grad rate increases 1%
Oregon’s graduation rate has ranked near the nation’s worst year after year. Graduating 75% of the student body keeps Oregon at No. 48 in the nation, the Oregonian reports. This average is weighed down by districts including Reynolds, Reedsport and Fern Ridge, which gradated less than 60% of their students.
6. Jackson County losing 200 CCO jobs
The county couldn’t reach an agreement with the only remaining coordinated care organization, AllCare Health, for mental health services, the Mail Tribune reports. The only other CCO in Jackson county began to transition out of the Jackson County Mental Health organization earlier this month. AllCare was reportedly offered $8 million this year in lieu of the $13 million contract it was paid last year. The county said it could have absorbed the difference but general funds would have to be used. Without mental health contracts, the county is cutting 180 of its mental health workers and 20 in other health fields. That cut leaves Jackson County with just 50 mental health employees.
7. OB Original Blog: PDX battle over fossil fuels heats up
Business groups and environmentalists square off on fossil fuel ban.