Senators seek reauthorization of program funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 30 U.S. senators are seeking at least a two-year reauthorization of the payments in lieu of taxes and Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act programs.

U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both D-Wash., are among the 31 senators seeking inclusion of the programs in any end-of-year legislation passed by Congress.

The programs provide critical funding for local governments and schools in Washington state, they said.

“Congress has an obligation to ensure counties with large swaths of federally owned, tax-exempt forests and rangelands can adequately provide essential services for their residents,” the senators wrote in a bipartisan letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“A short-term reauthorization of at least two years is critical to provide fiscal certainty for counties containing federally-owned lands,” the senators said.

Through the PILT program alone, millions of dollars have been invested in Washington counties to help local governments provide vital services such as firefighting, police protection and construction of public roads. Similarly, the secure rural schools program has supported thousands of schools and millions of students across the United States.

Washington state received $23.06 million from PILT in fiscal year 2019 and $16.95 million in secure rural schools payments in fiscal year 2018.

Uncertainty around the programs makes it difficult for impacted local governments to plan annual budgets and serve their populations, the senators said.