Baucus, Tester fight to fund rural Montana counties and schools

Senators ask for SRS/PILT funding in upcoming emergency spending bill

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana’s U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today asked for emergency funding for Montana’s rural communities and schools, vowing to fight for what they call an “economic safety net to thousands of counties across the country.”

Both Baucus and Tester signed a letter by Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) initiatives.  Without action, SRS will expire later this year, leaving an “emergency without rescue for hundreds and hundreds of counties across America,” the Senators wrote.

SRS gives financial help to 775 rural counties—mostly across the American west—that struggle to make ends meet.  More than 4,400 rural schools rely on SRS funding to stay open.

PILT pays nearly 2,000 counties nationwide.  Both programs compensate counties that can’t generate adequate tax revenue because most of their land is owned by the federal government and is not taxable.

“The Secure Rural Schools program is a vital lifeline for many counties in our state,” Baucus said. “Without the dollars the program provides, essential services would be woefully underfunded. Too many lives are dependent on Secure Rural Schools for rural schools, roadways and even emergency services and Jon and I are fighting tooth and nail to ensure the program gets the funding it needs.”

“This is about keeping Montana’s rural schools and counties open for business,” Tester said.  “This letter is an important first step.  Now Max and I will work hard to get this priority on board the next train leaving the station.”

Several months ago Baucus and Tester included a year-long extension of both SRS and PILT in an emergency funding, but the funding was cut from the final version of the bill.