May 02, 2016

Wyden, Crapo, Tester lead 31 senators in bipartisan fight to deliver critical payments to rural counties

Washington, DC --Senators Ron Wyden, Mike Crapo and Jon Tester led a bipartisan group of 31 Senators today demanding the reauthorization of critical payments to rural counties.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) the senators pushed to reauthorize Secure Rural Schools (SRS), which compensates counties with federal land that have seen declining timber production by providing payments to support local schools, infrastructure, and law enforcement.  SRS expired last September and has yet to be reauthorized.

“Rural Oregonians know full well the urgency of Congress reauthorizing SRS, which funds vital services that help give their children the good education they deserve and their neighborhoods the safety they expect,” Wyden said. “I have been proud to fight for this essential lifeline since I co-wrote the original SRS program in 2000, am gratified it continues to receive bipartisan support and will continue exploring every possible avenue to renew this funding for communities that depend on it.”

“The SRS program continues to be a critical safety-net for forest counties as we work to diversify rural economies, improve forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments and ensure that our forests provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, and wood fiber for local economies,” the Senators wrote in their letter.

SRS was enacted in 2000 to provide heavily forested counties with additional revenue to compensate for the steep decline in timber revenue sharing.  Even though the county cannot tax federal lands, they must still provide many essential services to residents and the millions of national forest visitors each year.

Without SRS payments, counties receive only 25 percent of local federal forest revenues.  According to the National Association of Counties, when SRS authorization lapsed in 2014, national forest payments to counties dropped by 80 percent, which forced many counties to face dramatic budget shortfalls.

Across the nation, more than 720 counties and 4,000 school districts receive SRS payments to support their local budgets.

The letter is available HERE.

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