Congress may revive Secure Rural Schools

House Budget Calls for Continuation of Secure Rural Schools
By Congress Greg Walden Press Release

Salem – In a welcome development out of Washington, D.C., the U.S. House Budget Committee Chair, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (PL 106-393) a priority in the proposed committee budget for federal fiscal year 2012.

“This is great news,” Association of Oregon Counties’ Executive Director Mike McArthur said. “The House Budget Committee has given the effort to reauthorize county payments a huge boost.” Earlier this year, President Obama included a reauthorization of county payments in his proposed FY 2012 budget. The combination, according to McArthur, is acknowledgement that county payments are an important life line to forested and rural communities in Oregon and across the nation. “The President and the House Budget Committee know how important this program is and now we have a glimmer of hope going forward,” he said.

Much legislative work remains. The details of how much federal funding will be needed for a reauthorization and how long that reauthorization will be remain to be worked out. Whatever the House decides must also be approved by the Senate and signed by the President. The current reauthorization of county payments ends with one final payment at the end of 2011.

Oregon counties have used the payments to provide vital public services such sheriff’s patrol, jails and road preservation and maintenance. Oregon schools have benefited from the program as well. In 2008, Oregon received approximately $230 million with schools receiving $33 million.

“We’re in the House Budget,” McArthur said, “we’re in the President’s Budget. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go. We appreciate the efforts of our Oregon Congressional delegation to make sure this program continues. We look forward to helping them make this happen.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, (R-OR), U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-OR) and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, (D-OR), circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter to the House Budget Committee in March, urging that county payments be included in the Committee’s FY 2012 budget proposal. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a Member of the Budget Committee, and U.S. Rep. David Wu (D-OR) also signed the letter.

The references to county payments in the House Budget Committee Concurrent Resolution can be found in Title III, Section 306 of the resolution. If you have questions, please contact Eric Schmidt or Laura Cleland at the Association of Oregon Counties.

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