WASHINGTON, D.C. (February, 17, 2017) — Today, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) joined Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) in spearheading a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Mick Mulvaney, the new Director of the Office of Management and Budget, urging the inclusion of critical funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination (SRS) program in the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018.
“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. The SRS program helps in providing essential services, funding public education, and maintaining infrastructure. I’m proud to help lead this effort because thousands of students, educators, and people in our rural communities rely on this important program,” said McMorris Rodgers.
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.
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. Earlier this month, the Congresswoman hosted a roundtable discussion for the launch of the Congressional Working Forests Caucus on 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.
The final letter can be viewed here.
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