Washington, DC – In a bipartisan effort to maintain the “contract” between rural America and the federal government, 29 members of the U.S. Senate from both parties are urging the Obama Administration to include a long-term reauthorization of the county payments program, known as the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act (SRSCA), in its 2012 budget.
“The SRSCA is not an entitlement program, but rather a demonstration of the commitment that this nation made to rural forest counties when it determined that large blocks (193 million acres in total) of our forest lands should be set aside for the benefit of the entire nation,” the 20 Democrats and nine Republicans wrote the President. “Indeed this ‘contract’ between the federal government and rural America is part of the very foundation of our national forest system.”
Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act of 2000, which provided six years of funding. In 2007, Congress extended the program for one year. In 2008, Congress once again provided a four-year extension from FY2008-2011 after Wyden repeatedly sought its reauthorization by attaching it to numerous pieces of legislation, ultimately gaining its passage. The letter sent today urges the President to include a reauthorization in the 2012 budget. House members are also sending a similar letter to the President.
Failure to extend the program would lead to an annual payment loss of $468 million starting in 2012-13, resulting in a loss of financial support for construction, roads, education, conservation, and various other government-funded services and projects.
Senators signing the letter include Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-W.V.), Christopher S. Bond (R-MO), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Mark L. Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Russell D. Feingold (D-Wisc.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
A copy of the letter can be found at: http://wyden.senate.gov/download/?id=3878fad6-ccad-43b9-8b96-beaa980da6f5