WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 3, 2017) – Today, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) introduced legislation to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 alongside Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). This bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation will extend the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program through 2017. The SRS program is vital to our communities in Eastern Washington, and following the introduction of the legislation, Rep. McMorris Rodgers released the following statement:
“The Secure Rural Schools program is vital for our rural communities, like those in Northeastern Washington. While we work toward active forestry reforms to get our federal forests working again, we must still provide certainty for our counties. This bill will help provide that certainty by ensuring the extension of the SRS program which aids affected counties with essential services, funding for public education, and infrastructure maintenance. I’m proud to lead this legislation because people in Eastern Washington rely on the Secure Rural Schools program for their livelihoods.”
Yesterday, May 2, Pend Oreille County Commissioner Mike Manus gave testimony in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in support of the SRS program and it’s importance to Eastern Washington. Specifically he said, “Chair Murkowski, Ranking Member Cantwell and the Senate Committee, thank you for the opportunity to share Pend Oreille County’s story. I look forward to working with you to pass legislation that will enhance our National Forests and secure permanent PILT funding, better management of our forests to prevent catastrophic wildfires and a program for SRS to bridge the gap in the interim. All my county residents need your support to protect their environment, enhance the economy, educate our youth, build our roads and assist our emergency responders.” You can read his full testimony here.
Nearly 100 years ago, Congress passed legislation to specify that 25 percent of revenues from timber harvests on federal lands would be shared with affected counties. These funds went to public schools, roads, and other municipal needs. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, timber production has drastically fallen on federal lands. This has devastated the tax base and virtually eliminated revenue sharing for essential services. Reforms are needed to better take care of our forests and get people back to work. In the meantime, certainty needs to be provided to our counties by extending SRS. Currently, the uncertainty caused by the expiration of this program makes it nearly impossible for these counties to plan annual budgets or invest in public education or infrastructure.
NOTE: The extension of Secure Rural Schools will provide funding for seven counties across the Fifth Congressional District, and 27 counties across Washington state. The Secure Rural Schools program was first enacted in 2000 to renew this commitment to timberlands, but has remained expired since September 30, 2015.
In February of this year, Rep. McMorris Rodgers led a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney requesting the inclusion of funding for the SRS program in the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018.
Rep. McMorris Rodgers has been a champion of getting the nation’s forests back to work and advancing reforms to ensure federal forests are healthy and actively managed. In February, the Congresswoman hosted a roundtable discussion for the launch of the Congressional Working Forests Caucus to discuss how the nation’s forests can create jobs and grow the economy, and how tax policy impacts timber production on federal forests. She believes that with long term investment, unique opportunities can be brought back to these rural communities that the Secure Rural Schools program aims to help.
You can view the full text of this legislation here.