Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today introduced legislation that would ensure counties receiving Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funds cannot spend those federal resources on any activity related to lobbying.
Wyden and Merkley said their bill is to ensure SRS funds remain dedicated to their intended purposes of helping rural counties in Oregon and nationwide pay for schools, roads, bridges, law enforcement and other services.
“The importance of SRS for rural communities demands that every dollar stays on track for their intended destinations of classrooms, roadways and police stations,” Wyden said, citing recent reporting by The Oregonian of SRS money misspent on lobbying. “This legislation ensures that path happens to help students and teachers, motorists and police officers by clearly spelling out that this economic lifeline can’t be tapped for lobbying.”
“SRS payments provide a much-needed lifeline for critical services ranging from schools to roads to public safety—and we need to make sure it’s those services, not lobbying, that are funded by these resources,” Merkley said. “This bill will help ensure that these funds go to fundamental public services that Oregonians rely on.”
The bill by Wyden and Merkley also would require the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to write regulations for how SRS resources can be spent – an action that the Inspector General has said federal agencies have failed to accomplish and that is long overdue.
And the legislation would require all counties receiving SRS funds to submit an annual report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and BLM summarizing how these resources are spent. USDA and BLM would have to put those reports online, under the legislation.
In addition to this bill, Wyden and Merkley also have introduced legislation that would provide short-term reauthorization of SRS as well as create a longer-term permanent endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services.
Text of the bill is here.
A web version of this release is here.