Washington, DC–U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today cosponsored the County Payments Reauthorization Act of 2011 to continue two important programs that provide funding for public schools, county road projects, forest management projects and other important programs in counties with large tracts of federal lands. The legislation reauthorizes the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for five years and also guarantees full funding for the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for five years.
“Although the Black Hills National Forest, our national grasslands and national parks are tremendous assets to South Dakota, they are not part of the local property tax base. These programs were crafted to ensure that these communities and others nationwide still have the resources to support local schools, county roads and other services that people rely on. This legislation will keep the SRS and PILT programs in place and prevent essential public services from being placed on the chopping block.”
PILT payments are federal payments to local governments to compensate for the presence of non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries. This funding is especially important in South Dakota, which is home to several national monuments, parks, national forests and national grasslands. The SRS program addresses the decline in revenue from timber harvest on federal land, which historically has been shared between the federal government and counties. These funds also have been used for schools and roads.
“This bill will give certainty to local governments that the PILT program will continue helping them provide vital local services. This legislation represents the best way forward to continue the Secure Rural Schools program despite some tough fiscal constraints in Washington. This is an extremely bipartisan measure,” said Johnson.
The County Payments Reauthorization Act of 2011 has wide bipartisan support, including from Senators Bingaman (D-NM), Murkowski (R-AK), Wyden (D-OR), Crapo (R-ID), Risch (R-ID), Baucus (D-MT), Tester (D-MT), Reid (D-NV), Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-CO), Boxer (D-CA), Cantwell (D-WA), Heller (R-NV), Cochran (R-MS), Murray (D-WA), Blunt (R-MO), Bennet (D-CO) and Merkley (D-OR).