The West Oregon Electric Co-op offices in Vernonia. Photo: Chas Hundley

Thank you to Senator Ron Wyden for listening to Oregon’s electric cooperatives and fighting tirelessly to add important legislation to the 2020 spending bill.

The bill included a provision known as the RURAL Act, which protects electric cooperatives from losing their tax-exempt status if they receive grants for storm recovery and broadband deployment. This bill is now signed into law.

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Washington politics have become so polarized that it can be tough for Democrats and Republicans to come together to tackle big challenges. But that’s exactly what happened recently on Capitol Hill thanks to dedicated lawmakers like Senator Ron Wyden and our entire Oregon House delegation.

An unintended consequence of federal tax law changes in 2017 left Oregon co-ops with an unfair choice: do they take the money they need to turn the lights back on for their members as quickly as possible after a disaster? Do they accept the broadband grants to help close the digital divide between rural and urban America?

Or do they turn down those grants so they wouldn’t have to spend their members’ money paying taxes rather than improving service?

Thanks to great support of the Oregon congressional delegation and Senator Wyden, electric co-ops don’t have to make those tradeoffs. The passage of the RURAL Act shows that even a deeply divided Congress can act in a bipartisan fashion and get things done for Oregonians. 

- Erika Paleck, West Oregon Electric Cooperative Director District 5

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