Cantwell, Murray Call for Financial Certainty for Rural Counties

Senators request two-year reauthorization for PILT and SRS programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) joined 29 of their Senate colleagues to request that any end-of-year legislation include at least a two-year reauthorization of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) programs. These programs provide critical funding for local governments and schools in Washington state. 

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

Through the PILT program alone, millions of dollars have been invested in Washington counties to help local governments provide vital services like firefighting, police protection, and construction of public roads. Similarly, SRS funding 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 SRS payments in fiscal year 2018. Uncertainty around these programs makes it difficult for impacted local governments to plan annual budgets and serve their populations. 

“As history has proved, without the certainty of these two critical programs, schools, libraries, and jails will close,” the senators warned. “The services counties continue to provide will see a reduction in staffing and resources. Roads will go unpaved and become unsafe. Mental health and physical health services will be scaled back and in some cases even ended. Fewer and fewer law enforcement officers will be forced to patrol larger and larger areas.” 

Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray have long supported PILT and SRS and have repeatedly fought against proposals to cut funding from these programs. 

In addition to Cantwell and Murray, the letter is also signed by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tom Udall (D-NM), Steve Daines (R-MT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tina Smith (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT). 

The full text of the letter can be found HERE.