WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Reps. Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Russ Fulcher (ID-01), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today led a bipartisan letter to congressional leadership urging reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program and robust funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program in the appropriations process.
In the letter, the members write, “SRS and PILT serve as a lifeline to rural America’s local governments and now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the budgets of these rural counties have taken a hit. These two programs fund roads, schools, law enforcement, and essential county services, such as public health programs. With additional demands on their resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, rural communities and counties are stretched thinner than ever. In order to assist these rural counties’ response to the current public health crisis, as well as to invest in infrastructure, schools, and law enforcement, Congress must advance a reauthorization of SRS. Further, we urge you to maintain robust funding for PILT as you continue funding negotiations for the remainder of the fiscal year.”
SRS has been a critical lifeline to over 775 counties in more than 40 states by helping fund over 4,400 schools, road maintenance, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations on federal lands. Historically, the federal government shared with county governments 25 percent of timber sales from federal forestlands and 50 percent of revenues from certain lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Due to declining timber sales and county revenues, Congress first passed SRS in 2000 to provide a measure of compensation for counties containing federal timberland.A PDF version of the letter can be found here