By Donna Westfall – May 6, 2017 – On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced a bill to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) introduced similar legislation in the House.
SRS provides critical revenues to rural forest counties with a high proportion of federal land like Del Norte County. The program supports a variety of services in 775 counties and 4,400 schools across the country.
“The White House does not seem to understand the need for the SRS [programs], nor the impact they have on local governments and local economies across the West. These… programs are what pay for schools, roads, and emergency services in our rural communities,” Senator Cantwell said at a hearing on SRS yesterday. “Local governments depend on these programs to function, and I know that we need to have these programs now and give certainty to our local governments.”
“The Secure Rural Schools program was established to help give communities the certainty they need to run schools, keep law enforcement officers on the job, keep infrastructure projects moving, and so much more,” Senator Patty Murray said. “I’m encouraged to see so much bipartisan support in the new Congress to deliver the certainty our counties need, and I will continue to do everything I can to make clear to this Administration how critical it is to fulfill commitments to the rural communities we represent.”
“The Secure Rural Schools program has helped cities and towns on the the North Coast of California and across our state pay for essential services like education, public safety, and infrastructure. I hope Congressman Huffman will sign on to the House of Representatives bill in the near future. said Del Norte County Supervisor Bob Berkowitz.”
Uncertainty about the Secure Rural Schools program (SRS) makes it nearly impossible for impacted local governments to plan their annual budgets. SRS payments impacts 9 million students across 41 states. The federal government has long recognized its obligation to these counties, and Congress must provide these counties the resources they need to serve their populations.
The bills introduced today back-pay counties for the shortfall in funding they received last month without Secure Rural Schools program, and would ensure that counties receive the same payments next year as well.