Rep. Newhouse Statement on House Reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) released the following statement after voting with the House to approve a two-year reauthorization of the bipartisan Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS), which provides critical funding to counties and localities with large tracts of federally-owned National Forest land. SRS reauthorization was included in legislation to repeal the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR).
“For more than 100 years, Secure Rural Schools has supported rural counties that neighbor National Forest land by funding basic education, infrastructure, and emergency services for residents,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Extension of SRS payments honors the federal government’s commitment to rural communities that face lost revenue due to declining timber payments on federally-managed lands. Until national forests are more effectively managed in a way that boosts local economic development, reauthorization of SRS remains critical for local schools, teachers, and law enforcement in Central Washington and rural communities across the nation.”
In February, Rep. Newhouse (R-WA) led a letter to Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi requesting that the House move quickly to reauthorize the SRS program.
See the text of the letter below:
February 13, 2015
Dear Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi,
As Freshman Members of the 114th Congress, we write to request the House of Representatives quickly reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS), which was not reauthorized for fiscal year (FY) 2014. The SRS program is critically important to communities all across the country, as more than 700 counties and school districts receive funding through the SRS program.
For more than 100 years the Forest Service has worked with rural counties and shared 25 percent of timber revenues to compensate for federally-owned lands, which cannot be taxed at the local level. In our districts there are counties and school districts that rely on these funds to help support critical services, such as education and infrastructure projects. Over the past two decades, the levels of harvested timber on federal lands has dropped significantly, leading Congress to recognize the necessity of honoring its obligations by supporting these counties and school districts. However, as of September 2013 the program has failed to be reauthorized and payments ceased being made in April of 2014.
If Congress fails to reauthorize the SRS program and the distribution of payments continues to lapse, rural communities across the country will face increasing hardship and be unable to provide their residents with basic services.
As newly elected Members of Congress, we urge you to work together in a bipartisan manner to quickly reauthorize the SRS program. It is essential that our local governments have the ability to access this critically important source of funding.