Congressional effort to extend SRS funding

— Idaho senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are part of a bipartisan effort to extend payments through the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program.

The proposed legislation, S. 1027 — introduced last week by Crapo and Risch, along with 13 co-sponsors – extends authorization for SRS payments for two years and offers retroactive payments for 2016. The program was established in 2000 to make up for lost revenues from declines in timber production on Forest Service lands and federal lands in general.

According to the Forest Service, Idaho counties received in total about $22 million in SRS payments last year.  This year, that number has dropped to $2 million, because it is based on the backup formula of a 25 percent share of receipts of timber harvested on federal lands. 

For Idaho County, the difference is a nearly 95 percent funding decrease. According to the Idaho County Clerk’s Office, the county received $6,250,911 in SRS last year, and this year $316,329 from the 25 percent receipts.

“The federal government pays no taxes on millions of acres of federal lands in many counties in the West,” Crapo said. “Without SRS, existing revenue sharing payments are not sufficient to support the services these counties must provide, leaving them to choose between critical services like roads and schools. This is an obligation to rural residents that the federal government must deliver on.”

“Until we see a significant increase in active forest management on our national forests, the federal government must uphold its commitment to support our rural counties and schools who rely on the SRS program. This is a bipartisan issue and must be addressed now on a bipartisan basis.” said Risch.

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