Democratic News

Feb 17 2017

Cantwell Encourages Mulvaney to Fund the Secure Rural Schools Program

Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Highlights Critical Nature of These Revenues for Hundreds of Rural Counties

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) joined a bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation to urge Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney to include funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination (SRS) program in the president’s budget request.

SRS payments provide critical revenues to more than 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools throughout the country, impacting 9 million students across 41 states.

Many counties in the state of Washington depend on these revenues. Last year, Skamania County received $3.5 million, Chelan received $1.4 million, Yakima received $1.2 million, Lewis received $1.7 million and Okanogan received $1.6 million in SRS payments.

Prevailing uncertainties about SRS make it nearly impossible for local governments to plan their annual budgets,” Sen. Cantwell and others write.

Massive reductions in timber production from federal forests during the last 30 years have dropped revenues by as much as 99 percent in some counties and more than 70 percent nationwide. SRS was first enacted in 2000 to restore the funding historically provided by revenue sharing, in light of significant losses faced by forest counties as timber revenues declined. “This promise is as relevant today as ever, given these counties are still expected to provide essential services on their public lands,” the members write.

SRS expired on September 30, 2015, and it has not been reauthorized for fiscal year 2016 or beyond. In fact, forest counties and schools received their last authorized SRS payment in March 2016. “Without SRS, existing revenue sharing payments are not sufficient to fund the services these counties must provide, and counties are forced to choose between critical services for their citizens,” the members write.

The congressional delegation pledged to work with Director Mulvaney to provide these counties the resources they need to serve their populations.

Download a PDF of the letter here.