On February 28th, Congressional leaders announced that they finalized six (6) of the twelve (12) funding bills for Fiscal Year 2024. The following day (February 29), Congress approved the continuing resolution (CR) that extends current funding until March 8th for programs in four (4) of those six (6) funding bills, and extends funding for the remaining bills until March 22nd. The CR passed through the House on a vote of 320-99, and later cleared the Senate with a vote of 77-13. The measure now moves to the President's desk to be signed into law.  

Members have agreed on the appropriations bills covering Agriculture-FDA; Commerce-Justice-Science; Energy and Water, Interior-Environment; Military Construction-VA; and Transportation-HUD, which leaves Defense, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education, Legislative Branch, and State and Foreign Operations appropriations for the new March 22 deadline. 

Leaders hope that this fourth temporary extension of funding will allow time for the legislative text of the first six (6) bills to be released over the weekend to facilitate a vote on the package of bills next week. Whether Congress can finalize the remaining six (6) – including Labor-HHS-Education and Defense, which are by far the biggest bills – in time to vote on them by March 22, is another question.   

RCRC has several specific requests for inclusion in Fiscal Year 2024 in addition to general priorities within the Agriculture, Energy-Water, and Transportation-HUD appropriation bills. The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs do not fall under mandatory spending, and are therefore subject to annual appropriations. Each year, RCRC advocates for reauthorization of SRS and for robust PILT funding. RCRC has also been advocating for a permanent allocation for pay increases for USFS firefighters. Wildland firefighters received a temporary $20,000 or 50% pay raise in 2021 through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. However, funding for the temporary pay raise runs out when the current CR ends later in March. Without congressional action to authorize a permanent pay solution, federal firefighters will see significant pay decreases. USFS estimates that 25-30% of their fire suppression workforce in California will leave the state if that occurs.