A bipartisan coalition of 31 senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging them to include a two-year reauthorization of the Federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs in any “end-of-the-year package” moving through Congress.  

Federal PILT was scheduled to expire at the end of Fiscal 2019 but is temporarily extended under a recent stopgap spending measure signed by President Donald Trump to extend government funding through November 21, 2019.  Funding for SRS ceased at the end of Fiscal 2018, and the letter asks for a two-year reauthorization while counties wait for Congress to take on the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, a bill that would enact a permanent funding mechanism for SRS recipients.

Reauthorizing Federal PILT and SRS is a perennial priority for members of Congress from rural and western states.  County advocates have long called for a permanent funding mechanism for both PILT and SRS, but the programs are often held in limbo through short term reauthorizations.  The Forest Management for Rural Stability Act would permanently fund SRS, and Senator Cory Gardner’s (R-Colorado) legislation, the PILT Reauthorization Act, would reauthorize PILT for ten-years, each addressing short and long term concerns for rural counties.

Without passage of either of these pieces of legislation, members are stuck advocating for short-term reauthorizations.  The letter addressed to Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer was signed by several senators from western states, including Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Kamala Harris (D-California), signifying the importance of Federal PILT and SRS funding for California counties.