Washington, D.C. – Recognizing the drain on many rural county budgets, Oregon’s Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley called for reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS) and fully funding the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program, in bipartisan letters to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
In a bipartisan letter signed by 29 senators, the senators stressed how vital SRS payments are to many rural budgets, as these payments often pay for school programs and personnel like nurses, and for other education services. The SRS program expired on September 30, 2015 and final payments were received by schools in March 2016. As a result of these stopped payments, county budgets are being stretched thin among competing priorities.
The senators, along with 35 of their colleagues, also urged Senate leadership in a second bipartisan letter to fully fund the PILT program, which provides critical resources to nearly 1,900 counties across 49 states. Counties have used these payments for more than 40 years to fund law enforcement, firefighting and other emergency response.
“SRS and PILT are critical lifelines for our rural places,” Wyden said. “These programs provide counties with resources on the front lines for all kinds of services communities just can’t do without – from education to first responders to law enforcement and libraries. I’m working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide this vital funding to our counties as soon as possible.”
“We’re racing the clock to make sure that rural Oregon counties have the resources they need for next year, and I’m going to keep working urgently with Senator Wyden and my Senate colleagues to make sure this gets done,” Merkley said. “Extending these programs is critical to so many vital services, from schools to roads to public safety, and we can’t let this lifeline disappear.”