Washington, D.C. (March 22, 2021) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Joe Neguse (CO-02) today introduced bipartisan legislation to extend the Secure Rural Schools program through Fiscal Year 2022. 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 Rodgers. “This legislation will extend this program through Fiscal Year 2022 so that our rural communities can continue to fund important infrastructure projects, public education, law enforcement, and other essential services. It also includes important reforms to better support our counties and provide the additional flexibility needed to invest in rural broadband for our schools, setting our children up for greater success in the classroom. Without this funding, people in rural, timber-dependent communities will get left behind.”
“Colorado’s mountain communities rely on funds from the Secure Rural Schools program to equip their students and fund road maintenance and emergency response operations,” said Neguse. “For schools in Grand, Summit and Eagle Counties and mountain communities across Colorado, these funds make the difference for our students; purchasing textbooks, updating school infrastructure and equipping mountain search and rescue operations. It’s critical that our rural communities can rely on the consistency of this funding to plan ahead and to support our students.”
Cathy has successfully fought for reauthorization of this program during previous Congresses.
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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