Bipartisan Coalition of 29 Senators Call on Leaders to Reauthorize Secure Rural Schools Program
WASHINGTON – Citing the drain on many rural county budgets, Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, along with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) have sent a bipartisan letter to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) calling for the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS) in any year-end legislation likely to be signed into law. The letter to McConnell and Reid was led by Crapo and Montana Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana).
SRS payments are vital to many rural budgets as these payments often pay for school programs and personnel like nurses, and for other education services. The SRS program expired on September 30, 2015 and final payments were received by schools in March of 2016. As a result of these stopped payments, county budgets being stretched thin among competing priorities.
“The federal government has an obligation to pay counties for tax-exempt, federally-managed lands within their jurisdictions,” said Crapo. “Without reauthorization of SRS, counties across the nation will be without funding for local schools, roads, bridges, forest management projects and public safety priorities.”
“Until we see a significant increase in active forest management on our national forests, the federal government must uphold its commitment to support our rural counties and schools who rely on the SRS program,” said Senator Risch.
“SRS is a critical lifeline for our rural places,” Wyden said. “It provides counties with resources on the front lines for all kinds of services communities just can’t do without - from education to first responders to law enforcement and libraries. I’m working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide these vital resources to our counties as soon as possible.”
The letter is also signed by Senators Risch (R-Idaho), Daines (R-Montana), Wyden (D-Oregon), Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Bennet (D-Colorado), Warner (D-Virginia), Boxer (D-California), Cantwell (D-Washington), Donnelly (D-Indiana), Feinstein (D-California), Franken (D-Minnesota), Gardner (R-Colorado), Udall (D-New Mexico), Heinrich (D-New Mexico), Thune (R-South Dakota), Sullivan (R-Alaska), Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), McCain (R-Arizona), McCaskill (D-Missouri), Merkley (D-Oregon), Stabenow (D-Michigan), Murray (D-Washington), Nelson (D-Florida), Peters (Michigan), Rounds (R-South Dakota), Sanders (D-Vermont), and Boozman (R-Arkansas). A copy of the letter is attached.