County Payments Deal Promises $1.8 Billion Dollars for Rural Schools and Communities
Multi-year extension guarantees funding through 2011
"Today's announcement will mean nearly $740 million for
Baucus, who included the SRS language in his energy tax bill, said: "This deal will throw a lifeline to rural counties across the West and pump dollars into schools, roads, and emergency services. It took a lot of elbow grease, but we are about to do the right thing for rural counties."
Today's House-Senate agreement reflects the Senate-passed proposal that Wyden and Baucus introduced earlier this year with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).
Today's agreement which includes a four-year plan of gradually ramped-down funding, will give counties a predictable stream of revenue to allow these local governments to plan for the future. The plan also includes transitional payments to give
Additionally the plan includes one year of full funding for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) which compensates states for loss of tax revenue from Federal lands in the state.
Over 700 counties in 41 states have received funding under the
Before the county payments law passed in September 2000, many rural counties were receiving payments as the result of 1908 and 1937 laws specifying that the government share 25 percent of USFS receipts and 50 percent of BLM O&C land receipts with counties in states that host Federal land from which timber is cut. These payments had been used to help finance rural schools and roads. Toward the mid- to late-nineties, however, the principal source of those revenues, federal timber sales, declined by over 70 percent nationwide. Consequently, the corresponding revenues shared with rural counties throughout the country declined precipitously, hurting school and transportation funding.
In 2000, legislation authored by Wyden to provide an alternative source of county funding was enacted into law, establishing a six-year payment formula for counties that receive revenue-sharing payments for USFS and BLM O&C lands. The formula established a stable source of revenue, a safety-net—or "full payment amount"—to be used for education, roads and county services in rural areas. The legislation also provided funding for ecosystem restoration, infrastructure maintenance and stewardship projects on national forests, fostering all-too-rare cooperation between counties, timber interests, and environmentalists. The safety net amount was based on historical timber receipts.
See Senator Wyden's floor statement here.