Washington, DC – The comprehensive tax extension package approved by the Senate includes $1.645 billion for a four-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced. The measure also includes a provision to authorize $1.684 billion for four-year funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. That’s a total of approximately $3.3 billion in funding.
The bill approved by the Senate Tuesday would need to be approved by the House and sent to the President, before it can become law. And it will all need to be accomplished before Congress adjourns for the end of session.
“A four-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools program would allow rural counties to plan for the future -- rather than face a catastrophic loss of $57 million in this year alone. It would help keep schools open for millions of children, prevent widespread teacher layoffs, and maintain important school programs and other county improvement projects,” Senator Feinstein said.
“This is an important fight for California’s cash-strapped rural counties. We’ve won one important battle, but there are major hurdles still ahead. We’ve got to get the bill approved the House, and then signed into law by the President. And there are only a handful of legislative days remaining in the session -- so, the heat is on.”
Secure Rural Schools
The Secure Rural Schools program provides critical funding to counties for their school and road improvement programs. The program was established in 2000 to help rural counties adjacent to U.S. national forest lands cope with a sharp decline in revenue from federal forest timber sales. The authorization for the program expired in 2006, and Congress has approved funding for one-year extensions since then.
The $1.6 billion included in the tax extension package is in addition to the $100 million in annual funding that would otherwise have been available from timber harvest receipts.
California received $69 million from this program for the school year of 2007-2008. But if the program is not extended, California’s rural counties -- including Sierra, Trinity, Plumas and Siskiyou -- would receive less than 20 percent of current funding, or only approximately $12 million. That's a loss of $57 million.
- Siskiyou County received $9.58 million;
- Trinity County: $7.99 million;
- Plumas County: $7.5 million;
- Shasta County: $4.15 million; and
- Lassen County: $4.01 million.
The bill approved by the Senate today will authorize a four-year phase down of the funding provided by the program – and designate additional transition funding for California, Oregon, and Washington during the first three years to minimize the effects of the overall decline of the total authorization level in the fourth year.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)
The PILT program compensates States for the loss of tax revenue from Federal lands in the State.
The $1.684 billion in funding approved by this bill would also provide California with additional dollars, on top of the $21 million California currently receives from the PILT program. This program is especially important for rural counties with heavy concentrations of federal lands that reduce their available tax base.