On Thursday, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing titled “Full Committee Hearing on SRS and PILT, and to Receive Testimony on Pending Legislation.” The hearing featured virtually unanimous support for continued funding of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program and the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.
Throughout the proceedings, Senators made reference to their local counties that rely on these programs and expressed concern over the “roller coaster” each has to endure in whether or not the funds will be properly allocated each year. As such, the witnesses urged for either a longer-term funding allocation or a permanent funding allocation. Three bills were discussed by the Senators that would work toward this goal. The first bill was “A bill to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000” (S. 430), which would provide two additional years of authorization for SRS. The second bill was the “Forest Management for Rural Stability Act” (S.1643), which would create a permeant endowment fund to ensure that SRS and PILT remain funded indefinitely. This fund would begin with an initial investment from Congress and comprise of annual deposits from payments of the forest revenue sharing program. The interest from this endowment would then subsequently fund SRS and PILT. The third bill was the “Small County PILT Parity Act” (S. 2108), which would revise the existing PILT calculation formula to provide additional monies to counties that have a population of less than 5,000 people. The Committee and witnesses all expressed support for each piece of legislation, noting that without these payments to local communities, many such services would not to be able to function.