Washington, D.C. (NEWS RELEASE) – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today introduced legislation reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Program (SRS). The SRS program provides funds that support public schools, public roads, forest health projects, emergency services and many other essential county services for 43 counties in West Virginia. Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act in 2000 after counties containing tax-exempt federally owned public lands experienced a severe decline in timber sales dramatically reducing payments to counties. The SRS program expired at the end of FY2015 and county payments returned to a revenue based system for FY2016.
“As we work to come up with a long-term solution for rural community needs, this legislation will provide funding for 43 counties in West Virginia,” Senator Manchin said. “Reauthorizing this program is a necessity for many rural communities in West Virginia that will keep schools open, make essential road repairs and keep law enforcement protecting our families.”
Senator Manchin joined Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), James Risch (R-ID), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) in introducing this legislation. The Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Program will:
- Reauthorizes SRS payments for 2 years—retroactively, to make counties whole for their FY2016 payments and FY2017 (payment goes out in 2018);
- Clarifies the use of unelected Title II funds;
- Eliminates the merchantable timber pilot requirement;
- Clarifies, through a technical fix, the availability of funds per section 207(d)(2);
- Extends the time available to initiate Title II projects and obligate funds for the 2-year reauthorization;
- Title II and III Elections: For the 2-year reauthorization, there won’t be enough time to go through the administrative process of the counties changing their elections and still getting their payments on time, so for reauthorization, the counties have to stick with their current elections;
- Requires an acceptable offset to pay for the cost of the program to be identified.