Tester helps reauthorize Secure Rural Schools

Senator votes for bipartisan compromise that supports rural infrastructure

(U.S. Senate) – In an effort to give Montana counties more budgetary certainty, Senator Jon Tester this week helped pass a major bipartisan compromise that funds Secure Rural Schools (SRS) for two years.

SRS compensates counties with federal land that have seen declining timber production by providing payments to support local schools and roads. More than 30 Montana counties rely on SRS funding to balance their local budgets.

“SRS supports priorities that directly impact our economy: public schools and roads. While we work to get folks in our forested counties back to work in the woods, SRS helps keep county budgets from falling into the red and forcing cuts to services that affect our kids and grandkids,” Tester said.

After hearing from county commissioners across Montana, Tester voted ‘yea’ this week as the Senate passed a bipartisan package that includes the two-year extension by a vote of 92-8. The SRS funding was included in a bill that prevents a cut to Medicare reimbursement rates.

SRS authorization lapsed after fiscal year 2013. Montana counties received their last SRS payment in April 2014. Many counties say without this money they would have to begin cutting essential services. The legislation requires the first payments to be made by mid-June.

“SRS is a huge help to Lincoln County and while this is a short-term fix, it’s one we really welcome,” said Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck. “We appreciate the efforts of the delegation to work together on this issue, and I hope they will continue to work together on a long-term fix to provide more predictability for folks in Lincoln County.”

Senator Tester recently introduced a bill to fund SRS for three years.