Senators call for PILT program’s renewal

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U.S. Sens. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. recently joined with 27 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 and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act programs.

“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 letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “As history has proved, without the certainty of these two critical programs, schools, libraries, and jails will close. 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.

“As we work to establish a permanent county payments solution, diversify rural economies, improve forest management and forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments, and ensure that our public lands provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, grazing opportunities, and wood fiber for local economies, a short-term reauthorization of at least two years is critical to provide fiscal certainty for counties containing federally-owned lands.”

In addition to Risch, Wyden, Crapo, and Merkley, the letter is signed by: U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Tom Udall, D-N.M., Steve Daines, R-Mont., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.

As part of a broader effort to ensure long-term financial stability for rural counties containing large swaths of federal lands, Risch, Wyden, Crapo, Merkley, Bennet, and Gardner recently introduced legislation that would reauthorize the PILT program for ten years. Risch, Wyden, Crapo, and Merkley earlier this year also introduced the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act to make SRS permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services.

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