Rep. Peter DeFazio Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging Reinstitution of Secure Rural Schools Program
Rep. Peter DeFazio today led a bipartisan letter to House Leadership with fifty-one other Representatives urging Congress to reauthorize full funding for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Program for FY2016.
The Secure Rural Schools program was created to help timber-dependent counties after changes in federal timber policy dramatically reduced timber receipts to rural communities across the United States. Today, the SRS program provides financial support for municipal services such as law enforcement, infrastructure and education.
The majority of Oregon’s counties have received SRS payments through the program’s course. The program expired on September 30, 2015, eviscerating county budgets and reducing vital services.
“The Secure Rural Schools program is there as a critical safety net for Oregon’s timber-dependent communities until Congress does its job and improves forest management policies,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “It’s imperative that members from both parties come together to reauthorize the SRS program and reinstate the payments that our communities rely on for education and safety.
The full text of the letter can be found below. A PDF version of the letter can be found here.
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September 22, 2016
The Honorable Paul D. Ryan The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker Democratic Leader
U.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol H-204, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Ryan and Democratic Leader Pelosi,
We write to express our strong support for reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for fiscal year 2016 and beyond, and our willingness to support your efforts. The SRS program provides crucial support for law enforcement, transportation infrastructure, and education in the more than 720 counties in 41 states that depend on revenue from federal forests.
The SRS program expired on September 30, 2015. Earlier this year the last payments were distributed to eligible counties. Most counties have completed their budgets for the upcoming year and without the SRS program, counties have been forced to cut vital services. As a result, funding for law enforcement, road maintenance, and education has in many cases been reduced. Nine million students have gone back to school with fewer teachers and educational opportunities. Taken together, these funding cuts negatively affect everyone who lives or visits these counties.
According to the National Association of Counties, when the authorization for SRS lapsed in fiscal year 2014, forest payments to counties decreased by over 80 percent. Counties and school districts nationwide faced dramatic budgetary shortfalls. Thankfully, Congress understood the serious effect the cuts created and reauthorized the SRS program retroactively.
The SRS program continues to be a critical safety net for forest counties. As Congress continues its work to improve forest management with policies that protect natural resources, improve forest health and provide jobs, we urge you to work in a bipartisan fashion to reauthorize the SRS program.
We stand ready to work with you in support of this important program.