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.