Senators Call for Financial Certainty for Rural Counties


Micheal Clements, NAFB News Service


A group of Senators request any end-of-year legislation include reauthorization of programs to help counties with federal lands. The group seeks at least a two-year reauthorization of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act programs. The programs help rural counties containing tax-exempt federal lands to cover typical tax-funded services. Led by Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, the bipartisan group of 31 Senators penned a letter to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer outlining the request. The group says, “a short-term reauthorization of at least two years is critical to provide fiscal certainty for counties containing federally-owned lands.” The Senators say 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. Nearly 1,900 counties rely on the funding to cover basic services, including law enforcement, mental health programs and libraries. The Payments in Lieu of Taxes program expires at the end of this year, while the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act expired last year.