Hatch, Wyden, Murkowski, and Cantwell introduce bill to reauthorize secure rural schools program

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA)  introduced legislation reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Program (SRS).

The SRS supports public schools, public roads, forest health projects, emergency services and many other essential county services for more than 775 counties.

“Over the past 30 years, massive reductions in our nation’s federal timber production have resulted in a serious decline in timber revenues for so many of our rural county governments,” Hatch said. “Because of this, Congress created the Secure Rural Schools program to help maintain essential local government services. Since the SRS program lapsed, forest counties have seen more than an 80 percent reduction in timber receipts. Prevailing uncertainties about these necessary funds make it nearly impossible for impacted rural local governments to plan their local budgets, and I ve committed to helping local leaders get the certainty their communities deserve. We all recognize that we have to find an acceptable way to pay for this program before the bill can move forward in the Senate and as Chairman of the Finance committee I look forward to working toward finding a suitable offset.

“Reauthorizing Secure Rural Schools is about keeping the doors open in rural Oregon and rural America,” Wyden said. “Counties need a comprehensive and consistent approach to these three essentials: federal resources through SRS, local support and sustainably increasing the harvest. This is urgent business for rural counties in Oregon to keep schools open, make essential road repairs and keep law enforcement on the beat. Our bipartisan coalition gives SRS the best chance for success right now, and I am going to stay at it to give struggling communities the long-term certainty they need.”

“This bill is a temporary fix to long-term problems that demand policy reforms, but as we pursue those, it will provide crucial funding to help keep our forest dependent communities whole,” Murkowski said. “The only real solution is to have our federal lands managed in a way that will promote economic activity and generate jobs. I appreciate the leadership of Sens. Hatch and Wyden on this bill, and look forward to working with them to advance it into law.”

“This legislation is so important to give local governments and local economies across the West the certainty they need,” Senator Cantwell said. “This will support schools, roads, and emergency services in our rural communities.” 


This bill:

  • Reauthorizes SRS payments for 2 years—retroactively, to make counties whole for their FY2016 payments and FY2017 (payment goes out in 2018);
  • Clarifies the use of unelected Title II funds;
  • Eliminates the merchantable timber pilot requirement;
  • Clarifies, through a technical fix, the availability of funds per section 207(d)(2);
  • Extends the time available to initiate Title II projects and obligate funds for the 2-year reauthorization;
  • Title II and III Elections: For the 2-year reauthorization, there won’t be enough time to go through the administrative process of the counties changing their elections and still getting their payments on time, so for reauthorization, the counties have to stick with their current elections;
  • Requires an acceptable offset to pay for the cost of the program to be identified.