Timber payments bluster 

A vote to reauthorize timber payments to rural counties died in the U.S. Congress last week when Republicans, including Reps. Bill Sali and Mike Simpson, cried foul on the funding source. Congressional Democrats, led by Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, proposed funding the payments with new royalties on offshore oil and gas leases. Republicans successfully blocked the measure.

But back home, the vote quickly became a campaign issue. Democratic congressional candidate Walt Minnick issued a press statement taking Sali to task: “With one vote, he proved that he cares more about oil companies than he does about Idaho schoolchildren and local governments.” Sali fired back that the vote was a setup that the Democrats, by forcing a two-thirds vote, did not intend to win and that it would only result in higher gas prices.

“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 said.

But not to be outdone, Minnick’s campaign fired back two more shots, the first proclaimed: Sali can’t “bluster and shout” his way out of the vote. “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,” the Minnick campaign blustered.

And then, some numbers from Minnick: While Ada County stood to receive only $6,000 from the payments, Idaho County could net $5.2 million and Shoshone $4.3 million.

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