SALEM &

The federal government's likely refusal to continue paying subsidies to rural counties in exchange for lost timber revenues will be on the agenda when state lawmakers convene for a monthlong session in February.




"Let's face it, this is going to come to the Legislature," Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said at a media briefing last week. "The Oregon Legislature is going to have to play a key role."




Courtney said he didn't want to make any definitive promises because of competing demands for funds.




The issue surfaced in Salem after the Senate stripped a four-year extension of the safety net for 300 rural counties dependent on timber revenues.




The money went to roads, schools and public services throughout the country, but the bulk of it is allocated to rural counties in the southern Willamette Valley, and Southern Oregon.




Courtney said he's hoping that tax revenue won't take a dip, affecting not only relief for timber-dependent counties, but other programs that might need additional dollars &

for example, potential costs for the recent floods in northwest Oregon.




House Speaker Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, said the issue will definitely be on the House agenda.




"We will be lobbying hard to make sure the timber payments get back into the next available vehicle on Capitol Hill," Merkley said. "This is a social contract to people that Congress must honor."




Jackson County receipts would drop by $23 million.