On Monday a bipartisan group of senators from the western U.S. introduced legislation they claim will provide long-term financial security for rural counties.
A release from the office of Senator Ron Wyden said the bill would reauthorize the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program for ten years. Wyden, along with Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and the senators from Idaho and Colorado teamed up to support the bill.
The release said the program provides “critical resources to nearly 1,900 counties across 49 states. It said counties have used these payments for more than 40 years to fund law enforcement, firefighting, emergency response and other “essential” county services.
Wyden said the PILT program is a critical lifeline for rural counties struggling to pay for essential services. He said Congress and the federal government have a “moral responsibility” to provide stable and reliable funding for what he called “this important program”. Wyden said rural counties in Oregon and across America deserve certainty. He said “it’s time to end the financial roller coaster they face each year”.
Merkley said “it’s time for Congress to reauthorize the federal support counties need to pay for these critical services on a long-term basis”.
Earlier this year Wyden and Merkley along with the senators from Idaho also introduced the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act to make the Secure Rural Schools program permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services.
A spokesperson for Wyden said no hearing has yet been scheduled for that proposal.