Boise-Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined Oregon Senator Ron Wyden this past week to reintroduce federal legislation creating a lasting endowment for forested counties through the Secure Rural Schools program.
The SRS grew out of the 2000 Craig-Wyden Bill to compensate rural counties for the decline in timber harvests in the national forests. SRS provides 775 rural counties and 4,000 schools with funding support from roads and bridges to forest health. This payment in lieu of taxes compensates local governments for non-taxable federal lands in their jurisdictions for other big ticket items like road maintenance and law enforcement.
Custer County Commissioner Wayne Butts says counties are not looking for a handout, just a fair shake.
“If we had our timber receipts to add on top of this,” said Commissioner Butts. “We would then have a base, to begin with, our budgets, I support our Senators and hope we can make it work.”
The bipartisan bill that creates a more permanent tax funding program in these rural areas where the federal government owns most of the land.
“It’s time to create a permanent, lasting program for Idaho counties and schools surrounded by tax-exempt federal lands,” said Crapo. “A long-term endowment assisted by forest products receipts would ensure certainty for parents, students and those traveling Idaho’s roads and bridges.”
County commissioners, school boards, and taxpayers from both states say that small towns have always relied on tax receipts from logging to support local funding.
“The SRS program helps counties and school districts deliver needed services like education, bridges, wildfire prevention, and environmental stewardship,” said Valley County Commission Gordon Cruickshank. “ Federal policies have cut