WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced the Secure Rural Schools Extension Act, bipartisan legislation to extend the Secure Rural Schools program through Fiscal Year 2020. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) was first introduced in 2000 to assist counties containing tracts of federally-owned land that are tax-exempt. The program provides payments derived in part through timber receipts and other leasing activities within National Forests back to county governments where those forests are located.
“The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program provides critical financial certainty to many of the rural counties here in Eastern Washington,” said McMorris Rodgers. “This legislation will extend this program through Fiscal Year 2020 so that our rural communities can continue to fund important infrastructure projects, public education, law enforcement, and other essential services. Without this funding, people in rural, timber-dependent communities will get left behind.”
“The SRS program is a primary source of funding for schools, mountain search and rescue, road maintenance and other services that Coloradans rely on. We are obligated to maintain this program which provides for these integral services,” said Congressman Neguse. “I’m proud to introduce this critical piece of legislation, and will continue to be a champion for our rural schools to ensure they receive the funding they need.”
NOTE: 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.
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