- Associated Press - Thursday, March 26, 2015

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) - The U.S. House has passed a Medicare bill that includes renewal of a program that pays subsidies to timber counties, especially in Oregon.

The House voted 392-37 on Thursday to pass the bill that permanently blocks physician Medicare cuts. It now goes to the Senate.

Attached to the bill is a two-year renewal of the Secure Rural Schools Program, which expired last year amid partisan disagreements.

That program paid subsidies to rural timber companies around the country to make up for declining federal timber revenues from logging. Timber harvests have been reduced to protect fish, wildlife and clean water.

Last year Oregon got about $100 million of the $500 million paid nationwide.

Loss of the subsidies has forced some Oregon counties to consider tax increases or cuts to law enforcement.

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