Wallowa County may get some much needed financial relief in 2019. More accurately, it may now finally realize financial benefits that it, along with other Oregon counties, should have been receiving for some time now. The new legislation addresses how video lottery taxes are allocated respectively throughout Oregon’s 36 counties.
Sponsored by several Oregon law-makers, including Wallowa County representatives Senator Bill Hansell and Representative Greg Baretto, as well as politically influential advocacy groups like the Association of Oregon Counties and the Oregon Economic Association, House Bill 2320 should have some momentum behind it.
The law’s intent is to enable local economic development initiatives — something Wallowa County could sorely use.
While lottery money has been distributed to local governments under the current law, counties haven’t realized the full intended benefit. According to the Association of Oregon Counties, each was “supposed to receive 2.5 percent of the net value lottery receipts.” But for about eight years Oregon counties were shorted their fair share…. To the tune about $5.1 million, according to the Association of Oregon Counties.
For a rural community like Wallowa County, any extra financial resources can go a log way. While Wallowa County and its counterparts through the state did receive some money, it doesn’t take much imagination to wonder what the fully intended benefit might have provided.
The Association of Oregon Counties tracked how local governments were able to invest in economic development in 2018 even without full funding.
Locally, Wallowa County has used its funds to “support local groups and businesses to further tourism and local economic development opportunities, including public safety,” as tracked by the Association of Oregon Counties. “Examples include support for a music festival, repair of tow cables at the small ski area, and housing for fire equipment in outlying, very rural areas of the county.”
Neighboring Union County saw higher yields as each county’s payout is relative to its own video lottery traffic. It was able to expend its share “to make a loan payment for purchase of 60 acres of industrial zoned property which is now readily available for businesses.” Union County also was able to “support the operation and debt service payment of Buffalo Peak Golf Course; utilized for debt service payment on a loan to match an federal Economic Development Administration grant and a local bond for the development and job creation potential at the Union County Airport Light Industrial Park.”