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Sali Helps Kill Timber Payments to Rural Idaho Counties

700 rural counties in 39 states including Idaho will no longer receive federal funds to help replace lost money due to federal cutbacks in logging.

Even though the vote was a majority in favor, the extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act was brought under special House rules that required a two-thirds vote. Idaho Republican Rep. Bill Sali voted no.

The bill would have continued to give money to Idaho schools, roads and law enforcement for the next four years. Most of the counties affected are in Sali’s district.

Oregon, California, Washington and Idaho received the most money from the timber program.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, said the loss of the money is a “huge blow” to the counties affected.

Walt Minnick, Sali’s Democratic opponent, told New West, “Sali’s vote is surprising and disappointing. People who live in this district are not only wondering why he voted against critical funding for Idaho, they’re wondering how their schools will stay open, their roads will be maintained and their sheriff’s deputies paid. Sali should be standing with them – not with Big Oil.”

House Republicans objected to the bill’s plan to pay for the timber program by collecting royalties from oil companies. In the late 1990s, the federal government didn’t include a crucial factor in drilling leases to oil companies, and House Democrats wanted to close that loophole.

So far, the Sali for Congress campaign has accepted $21,000 from oil PACs and $371,366 from all PACs, which is 75% of his contributions.

The Minnick for Congress campaign has accepted no oil PAC money, and $29,500 from all PACs, which is 4% of his contributions.

UPDATE, 2:25 p.m.
UPDATE, 9:00 a.m. Saturday, June 7 – Sali’s press release printed in full

Here is Sali’s press release of Friday, June 6:

Congressman Bill Sali today criticized Liberal Democrat Walt Minnick for supporting a bait-and-switch measure that Minnick claims will give relief to rural Idaho, but in the end will give no help to Idaho at all.

“Walt Minnick has demonstrated that he will say anything to get elected and his campaign will be one of gross distortions.” Sali said. He added, “I was happy to be joined by Mike Simpson in opposing the legislation Minnick supports. That bill is nothing but a sham. This is cynical D.C. politics at its worst. It won’t help anyone in Idaho, as Idaho schools and road districts wait for federal money that will never come. The only thing it might do is push gas prices to $5 per gallon.”

The bill is HR 3058, the Public Land Communities Transition Act.

The controversial legislation was sponsored by Peter DeFazio of Oregon and was nominally to provide “Secure Rural Schools” monies for western states hit by declining logging and the revenues that it previously produced.

“Since coming to Congress I have been a strong and vocal supporter of efforts to force the federal government to follow through on its commitments to fully fund our rural communities and schools. One of my first bills was a bill to fund Secure Rural Schools. But, the bill that came before us yesterday was another example of Washington, D.C. cynicism and phony-baloney politics that would only raise gas prices and leave our rural schools and counties empty-handed,” said Sali.

Sali noted that Democrats were only interested in political theater with this legislation. The Democrats saw to it that the bill was considered under a procedure requiring a two-thirds vote, even though the bill could have passed with a simple majority 218-193 vote. Sali supported the bill in committee because of promises were made to secure funding and to include Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) money. But since the committee action, PILT was removed entirely.
“PILT funds are also important to rural schools and communities but will not be available for Idaho’s rural communities because the sponsor chose to completely remove those funds,” said Sali.

Additionally, the funding source Congress came up with is not likely to be available for schools and counties.

“The bottom line is I am being criticized by Walt Minnick for not supporting a bill that is nothing but pure Washington, D.C. baloney. Funding for Idaho’s rural schools and road districts is serious business and the people of Idaho deserve real answers and real funds and not just more empty political promises from Washington DC. It is shocking that Walt so boldly supports that kind of hogwash.”

Sali, added, “The end game here is a ploy by the same environmentalists who shut down logging in Idaho’s rural communities in the first place. It is those radical environmentalists who want to shut off all off-shore oil drilling and drive gas prices even higher.” Sali pointed
out that the funding included in the bill is only phantom funding for counties and schools that will never end up in the hands of rural Idaho communities.

That’s because Democrats decided that the money would come from retroactively repealing royalty waivers for certain oil and gas companies with leases that allow them to operate on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). However, that approach is likely to result in lawsuits that will delay funding.

Under the Democrats’ proposal, the costs would be paid by energy producers who had entered into good-faith agreements with the federal government to do exploration and increase supplies of American crude oil.

By breaking its word, the federal government would add $7.4 billion in fees on oil and gas companies producing domestic energy, on top of billions in new taxes already approved by Congress.

Additionally, the fees Congress seeks to impose are likely unlawful because the money from leases is supposed to be spent on Outer Continental Shelf-related resource conservation projects and programs. It is expected that energy companies that now have a lease on the OCS will file suit against HR 3058, meaning rural Idaho counties and schools will see no money from it whatsoever.

“That means the only thing Idahoans will have to show for this legislation is empty promises and higher gas prices,” said Sali.

“If you think $4 a gallon is painful, just wait. Congress seems determined to do everything possible to dry up American energy production and increase our reliance on foreign and sometimes hostile dictators,” said Sali. “Walt Minnick apparently thinks $4 is too low. He wants gas prices to go even higher, which is why he is once again announcing his support for policies that will drive up gas prices and break the backs of everyday hardworking Idahoans.

“Since Walt is new to the 1st Congressional District, he may not know this but Idahoans want more, not less American energy production. We believe lower taxes help the economy, not higher taxes. We want a federal government that will keep its promises – to our counties, our schools and our businesses – not break its word on a whim or when it is politically convenient. We also want Congress to stop using political trickery and gimmickry to pass legislation affecting hundreds of rural communities across America.

“Congress kowtowed to the radical environmentalist agenda in the first place and that resulted in the destruction of the timber industry in Idaho. The federal government must keep its promises to provide payments to rural counties whose economies were destroyed by the government’s policies. But Congress should not use one promise as an excuse to once again kowtow to these extremists and enact policies that will hurt American energy production and our economy even more,” concluded Sali.

UPDATE: Minnick’s spokesperson John Foster issued this statement at about 4:00 p.m. Friday, June 6

Bill Sali can’t bluster and shout his way out of his terrible decision. The bill was a simple up-or-down vote – with no amendments or earmarks – to fully fund for four years a program critical for rural Idaho schoolchildren and counties.

Bill Sali voted no.

He wants to blame everyone but himself and his cronies in Congress, who have consistently failed to get this done for rural Idaho. He blames Congress even as he stands on the floor of the House purposely stalling debate. He blames Washington even as he plays drums at parties for political insiders. And he blames energy policies even as he has expensive lunches with oil lobbyists.

Again, Big Oil has gotten away with not paying these royalties for years. Sali had a chance to stand up to them on behalf of Idaho schoolchildren and rural counties, and he voted for Big Oil. His true loyalties could not be more clear.

Here are the facts:
Sali said the bill would have added more than $7 billion in fees for oil companies. Well, most Idahoans wouldn’t mind seeing oil companies taking a cut in profits. In the first three months of this year, Exxon alone had a profit of $8.4 billion.

Oil companies would be required to renegotiate their leases under this bill to help keep rural Idaho schools and counties afloat. In fact, one company (Shell) has already done that with their lease. Exxon has not – both companies charge the same at the pump. Sali’s argument doesn’t hold water.

Sali should stop lying about oil exploration – there are plenty of available lands. Oil and gas companies hold leases to 68 million acres of federal land that are NOT currently under production.

Sali said Idahoans deserve “real answers” rather than empty promises. His actions yesterday showed that as long as he’s in office, empty promises will be all they get from Bill Sali and his Big Oil benefactors in Washington, D.C.

About Jill Kuraitis

Jill Kuraitis is an award-winning journalist who specializes in news of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West. Her B.A. in theatre management is from UC Santa Barbara, and she went on to work in theatre, film, and politics before writing became a career. Kuraitis has two excellent grown children and lives in Boise with her husband of 30 years, abundant backyard wildlife, and two huge hairy dogs.

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14 comments

  1. Sali shot at the bill for a good reason. It put a nine dollar per barrel tax on production, piled on extra lease fees, and if I understand the gobblygook properly, also whacked oil with a retroactive tax hit above a certain price — all funds that would be passed through to the taxpayers by dint of higher petro prices.
    Typical robbing bad Petro Peter to pay good Peckerpole Paul.
    Congress will never deal straightforwardly with any issue, everyone there seems to be fundamentally bent in the head. The problem is, Congress tore up the social contract with these rural communities, killed their basic industry, tried to “decouple” them into straight-welfare payments to blunt support for timber harvest and forest management, blah blah….
    We should give the ground back to either the Indians, or to the affected states, and let them choose their own future without being sacrificial goats for eco-colonialists or other faraway slimeballs looking for cheap votes.

  2. What a pant load skinner, nice archaic conservative corporate thought process, yeah screw the people, give the corporations all the tax breaks. People are better off just shutting up and being consumers in the conservative world.

    The time has come for corporations who want to use our resources for profits and do business in USA, they must to pay for it.

    Conservatives have destroyed the economy and are now working on rendering democratic government ineffective, but Americans are rising against the tyranny of conservatism.

  3. The word went out from the White House: “Kill the Bill,” and that’s exactly what the Republican sheeple did.

    God forbid anyone bother the oil companies (“Blessed Be,” the party faithful chant) with anything like fair prices or responsibility toward the nation or, well, anything that might cut into their bloated profits

  4. On target Dave! Wished for the same fate for the Farm Bull but too many Rebublican chickens in the House. “Relief” should’ve left with the logging companies. The envirocons have greatly helped the increaseng wealth of the Saudi’s & Russians.

  5. Idaho went to the polls, elected trash like Craig and Sali and the Butchy Boy, and deserves everything it gets. With regard to anybody helping to increase the “wealth of the Saudis & Russians” because they vote AGAINST tax breaks for oil companies, that’s the most moronic statement I’ve encountered in a long time. Who do think the oil companies are? Do you think that, if we let a multinational corporation drill for oil on American soil that we get that oil? Think again, child! That oil goes onto the global market for the highest bidder to take. We get no discount whatsoever for giving up our lands to the drillers. Most of the time the lease fees aren’t even enough to cover the clean-up costs and the taxpayers get stuck with those. You make me want to puke.

  6. Mike…you’re puking would probably be your greatest accomplishment in life. Congrats!

  7. Think again. I’m pretty sure I can buy and sell you at least twice without even liquidating my core investments and that’s all money that I earned from my own hands-on design, development, construction, management, and investment work, not inheritance like so many of you fellows.

  8. Mike and JW: You’re blatantly violating the comment policy posted here. Cut it out, now and in future. Stay on topic and off personal insults anywhere you comment on New West.

  9. In all the reporting and commenting on this issue, I’ve yet to see how our OTHER congressman voted. Anyone know how Simpson voted?

  10. PILT at 100% is the simple solution. Decouple acreage-based payments from oil leasing and/or subsidized logging. But pay no more than Big Timber does on its managed lands, and watch much of the political gamesmanship evaporate. As we all know, however, this is an election year. Solutions will have to wait.

  11. Steve,

    PILT at 100% is a great place to start. Revisiting Idaho’s corporate taxation policies is another. The funds derived from timber sales that Craig/Wyden augmented are made even more a necessary evil for rural school and highway districts by tax loopholes created specifically to benefit the timber corporations.

    There’s also the reality that rural ID counties “dependent” on timber also have significantly lower property tax rates than more urban counties, having come to rely on the corporations or feds to cover their community costs. It’s time for their political leaders to bite the bullet and assume responsibility by raising the local levies and/or using their political capital to take back the corporate tax give-aways and adequately fund Idaho’s schools and road needs at the state level.

    FYI: I’m a former county commissioner and one of Bill Sali’s “radical environmentalists”.

  12. When the Republicans had total control in DC through 2006 they worked on reauthorization of Payments to Counties but could never get it done. Bush proposed to sell off Federal lands to finance the payments, which was a cynical ploy to guarantee it would not be reauthorized. Bill Sali had a chance to show he would support the counties and help get them back on their feet but he blew it with his NO vote.

  13. The one man wrecking squad was Asst Sec of Ag for the USFS Mark Rey. He of the Megapulp Lobby history. The hand picked lackey. The Weyerhaeuser, PCT, et al, man inside the administration. Rey’s job was and has been and is, to do well by the Timber Barons, the publicly held timber giants, and step all over the rural counties. The Southern envy of the past timber history of the West was cultivated like a Japanese truck farm, and the South and the East were untied against aiding those counties because there was nothing in it for them, and the Midwest was not going to give up one penny of farm support in the Farm Bill, and the Democrats were not going to give one Red State Republican any sort of favor in an election year. This is the year of the Democrat. I have lived through 40 years or more of their control of Congress, and it ain’t gonna be pretty before it is over.

    The Democrats will grow committees and committee staffs, and the Republicans will maybe have one staff lawyer on each sub committee, and be outnumbered by Democrats and Democrat staff on all the committees by 3 to one or more. Is is their nature. Republicans have left legislative office across the country because there is no useful purpose in being the loyal opposition. You are just window dressing. You can’t introduce a bill and get a hearing. You can’t make amendments in committee. Eunuchs are all you are, in a practical sense. Just like police stations have a guy to take down your information about the burglary, but nobody ever can do anything for you, a Republican congressman can be a shoulder to cry on, but not a maker of legislation or a person to solve a problem. So lay off your Republican congressmen and women about the sacking of the timber in lieu payments, the PILT program. The Democrats run the joint and they did not want it to happen, and they did not want Bush to sign a bill that would make him look like he did something good. Your minority Congressman could do nothing to prevent the DeFazio train wreck, because DeFazio switched the tracks and locked the switch. The train wreck was the desired Democrat result. And damn well remember that when you vote. You either approve of that kind of politics and you don’t. You vote your choices.

  14. The Republican Party is too dumb to take control of congress. The worthless fly over states each have two Senators!!!! If the Republican Party would on a national basis tell the truth about our energy policy they could fill the Senate with Republicans from those very Fly Over states between the two left coasts. Picture the damned windmill plantations destroying the look of the country side and producing not as much energy as an off shore oil well that can hardly be seen. Picture an aircraft carrier atomic engine that would power a large city. There has not been an off shore oil well problem in the memory of the voters nor an Atomic engine problem. Picture the raindeer hiding behind a pipeline for warmth. Show the miniscule amount of tundra involved in North Slope oil and the minimum surface activity. Whe should the flyovers care if there is an Oil Well off of the Calif coast? You would have to seek it out to find it. Safer than Main street.
    The American People are not dumb if they are shown the facts!!!!
    Why do the fly overs let the coastal states crap on them???