10.02.19

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls for Financial Certainty for Rural Counties

Bipartisan group of 31 Senators request two-year reauthorization for PILT and SRS programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined 30 of her Senate colleagues today requesting that any end-of-year legislation include at least a two-year reauthorization of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) programs.

The SRS program was created to provide consistent and reliable funding for more than 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools located near national forests across the country. SRS helps pay for schools, roads, and emergency response services in rural counties, and forest health projects in national forests. The PILT program is administered through the Department of the Interior and compensates rural counties for certain federal lands that cannot be taxed, including Bureau of Land Management land and national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.

In a bipartisan letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senators wrote, ”Congress has an obligation to ensure counties with large swaths of federally-owned, tax-exempt forests and rangelands can adequately provide essential services for their residents. As history has proved, without the certainty of these two critical programs, schools, libraries, and jails will close. The services counties continue to provide will see a reduction in staffing and resources. Roads will go unpaved and become unsafe. Mental health and physical health services will be scaled back and in some cases even ended. Fewer and fewer law enforcement officers will be forced to patrol larger and larger areas.

"As we work to establish a permanent county payments solution, diversify rural economies, improve forest management and forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments, and ensure that our public lands provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, grazing opportunities, and wood fiber for local economies, a short-term reauthorization of at least two years is critical to provide fiscal certainty for counties containing federally-owned lands.”

The letter was led by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) and signed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-MT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

A copy of the full letter is available here.