Oregon lawmakers urge rural county, schools funding
WASHINGTON - Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., led a bipartisan group of lawmakers Friday in urging Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to include adequate funding for the Secure Rural Schools program in the president’s budget for fiscal year 2018.
Wyden and Bonamici were joined by Oregon lawmakers Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio, along with 76 other members of Congress in a letter to Mulvaney.
“Prevailing uncertainties about SRS make it nearly impossible for local governments to plan their annual budgets,” the members wrote in the letter. “The federal government has long recognized its obligation to these forest counties, and we are committed to working in Congress to provide these counties the resources they need to serve their populations. We ask that you do all that you can in FY18 and into the future to work with us in this effort.”
They also wrote, “SRS payments provide critical revenues to more than 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools throughout the country, impacting nine million students across 41 states. In many cases, these ‘forest counties’ include massive swaths of public lands, particularly National Forest System lands, often consuming 65 to 90 percent of total land within their boundaries.”
The SRS program expired on September 30, 2015, and it has not been reauthorized for FY16 or beyond. Forest counties and schools received their last authorized SRS payment in 2016. Without SRS, existing revenue sharing payments are not sufficient to support critical services these counties must provide.