Bennet Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Reauthorize Secure Rural Schools Program

Would Restore Funding for Schools and Infrastructure in 43 Colorado Counties

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Program (SRS). SRS supports public schools, public roads, forest health projects, emergency services, and other essential county services for more than 775 counties around the country.

"SRS funding allows rural communities across Colorado to make necessary investments in schools, roads, and emergency services," Bennet said. "Congress should pass this bill so local governments can plan their budgets accordingly and provide certainty for rural school districts that rely on these funds."

Last year, Colorado received $11.8 million in SRS funding based on Fiscal Year 2015 revenues, serving 43 counties. SRS expired on September 30, 2015 and has not been reauthorized for Fiscal Year 2016 or beyond. Without SRS payments to rural counties in Fiscal Year 2016, Colorado counties saw an average 52% decrease in payments-a loss of $6.2 million dollars to rural counties and schools.

Over the last year, Bennet has sent letters to Senate leadership urging them to reauthorize SRS and to the Office of Management and Budget encouraging them to include funding for the program in the President's Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS Act) would:

• Reauthorize SRS payments for 2 years-retroactively, to make counties whole for their FY2016 payments and FY2017 (payment goes out in 2018);
• Clarify the use of unelected Title II funds;
• Eliminate the merchantable timber pilot requirement;
• Clarify, through a technical fix, the availability of funds per section 207(d)(2);
• Extend 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;
• Require an acceptable offset to pay for the cost of the program to be identified.