Greg Walden Highlights Key Wins for Oregon in FY 2020 Funding Bills
Today, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) released a statement after the House passed government funding legislation through the end of the fiscal year.
Included in the legislation was the Rural Act, one of many provisions built in to help rural Oregon communities flourish. Walden co-sponsored the Rural Act, which would help keep electric costs affordable and expand access to broadband in rural Oregon. In May, Walden urged the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee to move forward this legislation. Click here to read Walden's letter.
“Our rural electric cooperatives should not get punished when they receive broadband build out grants or emergency recovery funding," said Walden. "Yet, because of a drafting error in prior legislation, that’s precisely what would happen. It is not an overstatement to say this fix is essential to their survival."
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.
“Full funding for PILT keeps an important commitment to rural counties in Oregon,” said Walden on the full funding of PILT. “The federal government controls a majority of the land in our district and these funds help to make up for lost property tax revenue and help counties provide basic services such as roads and law enforcement.”
In continuation of Congress’ efforts to support rural communities, the legislation also extended funding for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) for 2019 and 2020. This funding comes after Walden was joined by his colleagues last week in sending a letter to Congressional Leadership urging them to reauthorize the SRS program. Walden has long fought for safety-net funding for rural communities, and this most recent effort builds on those efforts to secure the last four years of funding in legislation in 2018 and 2015.
“Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding helps Oregon’s forested communities pay for essential services like schools, roads, and law enforcement,” said 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.”
Also included were provisions funding economic development for 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.”
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 puts an end to a scam where pharmaceutical companies deny samples to generic drug competitors. This measure 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 made some progress to fund the government, but we also provided support for our rural communities, our military and America’s veterans," said Walden. "I also supported efforts to improve access to affordable prescription drugs, but there is much more that needs to be done. I remain committed to continuing to expand access to high speed rural broadband, lower drug prices, improve our country’s infrastructure, and improve our forest management. I look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan way to improve the livelihoods of Oregonians and all Americans.”