Senate-Approved Economic Rescue Plan Includes Funding for Four-Year Extension of Secure Rural Schools Program
Oct 01 2008
Washington, DC – The economic rescue plan approved by the Senate today 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.) 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 comprehensive bill approved by the Senate today would need to be approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the President before it can become law.
“Rural counties in California are grappling with a massive funding shortfall of $57 million this year – and the consequences are grim: widespread teacher layoffs, the elimination of school programs, and even some schools on the brink of closure. This is untenable for the families of California’s rural communities,” Senator Feinstein said.
“The good news is that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The $1.645 billion extension of the Secure Rural Schools program approved today by the Senate would give these rural communities some breathing room – and the ability to plan for a gradual phase-down of funding over the next four years. I urge our colleagues in the House to quickly follow our lead so that we can send this bill to the President’s desk.”
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 this bill 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 2007-2008 school year. 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 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. It will also designate additional transition funding for California, Oregon, and Washington during the first three years, in order 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.