Tester and Daines Fight to Deliver Critical Payments to Rural Counties

Secure Rural Schools Funding Supports Rural Classrooms, Infrastructure, and Law Enforcement

(U.S. Senate)-Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines are leading the fight to reauthorize critical payments to rural counties.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) the senators pushed to reauthorize Secure Rural Schools (SRS), which compensates counties with federal land that have seen declining timber production by providing payments to support local schools, infrastructure, and law enforcement. SRS expired last September and has yet to be reauthorized.

“SRS payments are critical to schools, public safety, and jobs in rural America,” Tester said. “As we continue to get folks back to work in the woods, these resources are keeping budgets from falling into the red and preventing harmful cuts that will impact families across the country.”

“The Secure Rural Schools program remains vital to ensuring that necessary funding is available for our rural schools and communities in Montana’s forested counties, and I will continue to fight to reauthorize it,” said Daines.

SRS was enacted in 2000 to provide heavily forested counties with additional revenue to compensate for the federal ownership of forests that cannot be taxed at the local level. Even though the county cannot tax federal lands, they must still provide many essential services to residents and the millions of national forest visitors each year.

Without SRS payments, counties receive only 25 percent of local federal forest revenues. According to the National Association of Counties, when SRS authorization lapsed in 2014, national forest payments to counties dropped by 80 percent, which forced many counties to face dramatic budget shortfalls.

More than 30 Montana counties rely on SRS funding to support their local budgets.

Tester and Daines’ letter was also signed by Senators Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bennett (D-Colo.), Blunt (R-MO.), Boxer (D-Calif.), Cantwell (D-Wash.), Crapo (R-Idaho), Donnelly (D-Ind.), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Franken (D- Minn.), Gardner (R-Colo.), Hatch (R-Utah), Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heller (R-Nev.), Kaine (D-Va.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), McCain (R-Ariz.), McCaskill (D-Mo.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Murray (D-Wash.), Nelson (D-Fla.), Peters (D-Mich.), Risch (R-Idaho), Rounds (R-S.D.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sullivan (R-Alaska), Thune (R-S.D.), Udall (D-N.M.), Warner (D-VA.), Wicker (R-Miss.), Wyden (D-Ore.).

The letter is available HERE.