With the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Community
Self-Determination (SRS) program in 2012, many counties and schools who depend
on the annual forest payments have begun to panic over the potential loss of
federal funding. The U.S. Senate may have
found an opportunity to extend funding for the program for an additional year
through an unexpected legislative vehicle – the Helium Stewardship Act (S. 783),
which is commonly referred to as the Helium bill.
On June 18, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
unanimously voted the Helium bill – which includes a one year reauthorization
of SRS – out of committee. The next step for the SRS extension will be to
survive a floor vote in the Senate. If the extension does survive a floor vote,
the Senate-House conference will be the next major obstacle, since the U.S.
House of Representatives passed their version of a Helium bill (H.R. 527)
without inclusion of SRS earlier this year.
While the Senate and House may differ in their legislative solutions
for future forest payments to counties, NACo will continue to urge leadership
on both sides of the aisle to act in the spirit of bipartisan and bicameral
cooperation and work together to move a final legislative solution to President
Obama’s desk. The expiration of SRS will create dramatic budgetary
shortfalls for 729 rural counties if Congress fails to renew this federal
obligation to rural county governments.
Contact: Ryan R. Yates firstname.lastname@example.org