Nine Oregon County Commissioners attended the National Association of Counties (NACo) annual Western Interstate Region (WIR) conference May 15-17 in Spokane, Washington.

At the conference, commissioners worked with their colleagues from the 15 western states included in the region to discuss issues of importance to western states. While WIR has been traditionally focused on natural resource priorities, other key topics including, mental health, substance abuse, and infrastructure funding have risen as key priorities for the 2019 WIR conference.

Policy discussions at WIR included:

Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)

  • Full mandatory funding of the PILT program, a program created to offset costs incurred by counties for services provided to federal employees and families, the public, and other users of public lands.

Secure Rural Schools (SRS)

  • Long-term legislation to address SRS funding, a program that provides relief to rural counties impacted by lost revenue from decline in timber harvest.

Funding Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs

  • Consistent funding of substance abuse and mental health services to help counties continue to provide critical investments in community health programs.

Infrastructure Funding for Counties

  • Funding for counties as any new infrastructure package is negotiated between Congress and the President, as counties play a critical role in maintaining public roads and bridges.

During the conference, commissioners were able to hear from James Hubbard, undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Kim Wyman, Washington’s secretary of state; and Jim Osbury, executive director of the Western Governors Association.

Commissioner Craig Pope said of the conference, “this was a great opportunity to drill into policies that impact Oregon and similarly situated states. Natural resources is an economic driver in the west, and all 15 of the states in WIR are facing similar issues. This has been a great forum for delving deeply into issues and identifying creative and collaborative policy approaches.”

Oregon Commissioners in attendance included: Tim Freeman (Douglas County), Mae Huston (Jefferson County), Lily Morgan (Josephine County), Dan Joyce (Malheur County), Jim Doherty (Morrow County), Craig Pope (Polk County), David Yamamoto (Tillamook County), Rick Dyer (Jackson County), and Melissa Cribbins (Coos County)

Contributed by: Megan Chuinard | Public Affairs Associate