Senators Wyden and Merkley Urging Leadership to Renew SRS Payments to Counties

US Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have urged their colleagues to keep the government’s promise to rural communities in Oregon, 40 other states and Puerto Rico by passing legislation that would provide vital funding for schools, law enforcement and essential road repairs.

Since payments through the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act expired last year, Wyden and Merkley have been working to reauthorize the program to ensure that counties like Josephine will receive a payment next spring that gives them certainty for funding critical county services.

But congressional leaders blocked their efforts, citing the contention that increased timber management could somehow replace the SRS payments. In doing so, they ignored estimates from the Forest Service concluding that logging on public lands would have to increase by 400% in order for timber revenues to match what counties have received in SRS investments.

Wyden and Merkley recently sought to extend this vital program by including it in the end-of-the-year must-pass bill to fund the US government. But because of congressional leadership’s inaction, the payments counties received last spring will be their last until leadership agrees to extend these crucial programs.

Last year’s SRS funds were paid to counties in March 2016 and included payments from the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. In Oregon, 33 counties received a total of $95 million in SRS payments this year. Over its lifetime, the program has brought almost $4 billion to Oregon’s timber counties.