Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber this week sent a one-page response to the U.S. Forest Service chief questioning the federal government’s legal authority to seek the return of $3.6 million in payments to financially distressed Oregon timber counties.

The federal government wants to reclaim $17.9 million in all, nationwide. The payments were released without taking into account the cut required under the sequester law, which required cuts this spring to many federal programs.

“Please explain how these particular payments are subject to sequester,” Kitzhaber wrote April 9 to Thomas Tidwell, Forest Service chief. “What is the legal authority for seeking repayment for 2012 funds that have already been paid out by the federal government?”

Kitzhaber was responding to a March 19 letter from Tidwell, who provided a detailed accounting of the problem and the choices.

“You have the option of having the total sequestered amount of $3,586,878.02 paid from (future forest conservation) funds, if you prefer,” Tidwell wrote Kitzhaber. “Otherwise, we will send you a bill for collection for the sequestered amounts” that were mistakenly paid.

From Oregon Live: http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/04/gov_john_kitzhaber_questions_f.html