WASHINGTON (KTVZ) — Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., released a statement Tuesday after the House passed government funding legislation through the end of the fiscal year, touting several provisions to assist Oregonians.
Here’s his full news release:
The 2020 spending bills included the passage the Rural Act, one of many provisions built in to help rural Oregon communities flourish. Walden co-sponsored the Rural Act, a bill that would help keep electric costs affordable and expand access to broadband in rural Oregon. Walden also sent a letter earlier this year to the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee on the need to pass the bill into law. To read Walden’s full letter, click here.
“Oregon’s rural communities rely on electric cooperatives and other consumer-owned utilities in order to have access to affordable power,” said Walden on the passage of the Rural Act. “This legislation would help ensure that consumer-owned utilities can navigate costly natural disasters and fully utilize funding in order to meet the growing demands of our rural communities. The Rural Act will ensure that utilities and their members are not penalized with long term tax costs for keeping the lights on and keeping power affordable for rural Oregonians.”
Rural electric cooperatives are applauding Walden’s efforts.
“We thank Congressman Walden for supporting this important bill to stop unintended severe tax penalties to electric co-ops that would be detrimental to delivering affordable energy to rural America,” said Dave Schneider, the CEO of Midstate Electric Cooperative in La Pine.
The 2020 spending bills also provided full funding for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which supports essential services, like forest management, in Oregon.
“These funds are welcome news for Oregon’s rural communities,” said Walden on the full funding of PILT. “I’ve worked with my colleagues in the House to secure this funding and take care of our rural communities. PILT funding helps ensure our communities have well-functioning schools, law enforcement, and infrastructure.”
In continuation of Congresses’ efforts to support rural communities, the spending bills extended funding for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) for two fiscal years, FY 2019 and FY 2020. This funding comes after Walden joined his colleagues last week in sending a letter to Congressional Leadership urging them to reauthorize the SRS program.
“Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding helps Oregon’s forested communities pay for essential services like schools, roads, and law enforcement,” said Rep. Greg Walden on the funding extension for SRS. “SRS has never replaced the dramatic reduction in federal timber revenue over the last 30 years, but it does provide some level of support. Last year, we passed the most significant reform to forest policy in a decade to help improve the management of our forests. While this is progress toward reversing the decades long decline in timber revenue, an extension of SRS is needed to ensure counties have a safety-net as we work to further improve forest management and utilize our natural resources to provide sustainable jobs and revenue to Oregon’s rural communities.”
The 2020 spending bills also provided funding to assist the communities affected by the creation of the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area, funding Walden has fought for for 21 years.
“The $2 million included in this year-end funding package will support the ongoing economic development in the Gorge,” said Walden on the funding for the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area. “I was glad to work with Senator Merkley and our colleagues across the river in Washington to secure this remaining funding owed to our communities under the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area Act. As the area continues to recover from the effects of the Eagle Creek Fire, these funds are all the more important and I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law.”
Congress also took steps in the spending bills to power the economy, reduce emissions, and work to get nuclear waste away from local communities and into Yucca Mountain. Walden has long advocated for ensuring that all nuclear waste be stored at Yucca, where Congress designated it be stored in the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act in 1978.
“Nuclear energy is critical to our country’s energy future, both powering the economy and helping reduce emissions,” said Walden. “But we must ensure that there is a safe space to store nuclear waste rather than in places like Hanford where there is the potential threat of waste contaminating local communities. I am glad that today’s legislation enables us to continue to work to deliver our long-overdue promise to get nuclear waste away from communities and into Yucca Mountain.”
Walden recently introduced the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, which would help lower the prices of prescription drugs. A piece of his legislation, the CREATES Act, was included as a provision in the 2020 spending bills. The provision would help increase access to affordable prescription drugs by stopping pharmaceutical companies from blocking access to affordable drugs for patients.
“The passage of the CREATES Act will help improve access to affordable prescription drugs for Oregonians,” said Walden on the passage of the CREATES act. “This provision will help prevent the anti-competitive behavior that denies patients more affordable options at the pharmacy counter. While this provision provides needed progress, much more work needs to be done to lower the prices of prescription drugs.”
In addition to including the CREATES Act, the spending bills also included provisions to increase access to affordable insulin.
“Today, the House acted in a bipartisan way to deliver for the American people on a number of issues,” said Walden. “Not only did we fund the government, but we provided support for our rural communities, our military and veterans, and even worked to improve access to affordable prescription drugs. While I am pleased by progress made, there is much more that needs to be done. Rest assured, I remain committed to continuing to expand access to rural broadband, lower drug prices, improve our country’s infrastructure, and improve our forest management – to name a few of the many things I plan to advance next year. I look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan way to improve the livelihoods of Oregonians and all Americans.”