Blog

Bipartisan bills to reauthorize Secure Rural Schools introduced in U.S. House and Senate

On May 4, 2017, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), respectively the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation (S. 1027) that would extend the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for an additional two years. Identical legislation (H.R. 2340) was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.). Together, these members of Congress are leading the way to reauthorize the SRS program and uphold the federal government’s commitment to America’s federal forest counties by ensuring that counties receive SRS payments for FY 2016 and FY 2017. Now we need your help to urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor this legislation.

SRS payments help provide stability for forest counties and school districts affected by reduced revenue due to federal policies that have dramatically curtailed federal timber receipts. These payments support public schools and teachers, public roads, forest health projects, essential search and rescue and emergency services, and other essential services in counties that contain federal forests within their jurisdictions.

Historically, rural communities and schools have relied on a share of receipts from timber harvests to supplement local funding for education services and roads. During the 1980s, national policies substantially diminished the revenue-generating activity permitted in these forests. The resulting steep decline in timber sales decreased the revenues that rural counties and school districts received from forest management activities. In response to this decline, SRS was enacted in 2000 (P.L. 106-393) to stabilize payments to counties and to compensate for lost revenues. When the SRS program lapsed in FY 2014, forest counties saw a more than 80 percent reduction in forest payments. Counties that rely on SRS payments are simply unable to meet their governing needs without these funds.

NACo has sent letters to Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Wyden, as well as to Reps. McMorris Rodgers and Bonamici, in support of both S. 1027 and H.R. 2340. The letters highlight the critical need for SRS reauthorization and the severe challenges counties will face if Congress fails to renew this longstanding federal obligation. Further, the letters expressed counties’ hope that these payments will continue to serve as a bridge until timber production increases and our federal forests are again able to generate significant levels of revenue to share with counties.

NACo stands ready to assist in passing S. 1027 and H.R. 2340, and will continue to work closely with these and other members of Congress and the Trump Administration to represent the needs and interests of America’s counties and ensure that counties have the necessary support to continue to meet their governing responsibilities.

NACo Resources:

About Jonathan Shuffield (Full Bio)

Associate Legislative Director – Public Lands and Liaison to the Western Interstate Region

Jonathan Shuffield serves as NACo’s Associate Legislative Director for Public Lands and Liaison to the Western Interstate Region, lobbying Congress on public lands issues including Payments In Lieu of Taxes, Secure Rural Schools, land management and endangered species.