Udall, Bennet Urge Obama Administration to Renew Payments to Support Rural Counties

Lawmakers Continue Push to Bolster Schools, Economies in Colorado's Rural Counties

Washington, D.C. – Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, Colorado’s U.S. Senators, today joined a bipartisan effort to maintain the “contract” between rural America and the federal government. Udall and Bennet are among 29 U.S. senators from both parties who are urging the Obama Administration to include a long-term reauthorization of the county payments program, known as the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act (SRSCA), in its 2012 budget.

“The SRSCA is not an entitlement program, but rather a demonstration of the commitment that this nation made to rural forest counties when it determined that large blocks (193 million acres in total) of our forest lands should be set aside for the benefit of the entire nation,” the 29 lawmakers wrote in the letter to the President. “Indeed this ‘contract’ between the federal government and rural America is part of the very foundation of our national forest system.”  

Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act of 2000, which provided six years of funding.  In 2007, Congress extended the program for one year. In 2008, Congress once again provided a four-year extension from FY2008-2011. The letter sent today urges the President to include a reauthorization in the 2012 budget. House members are also sending a similar letter to the President.

Failure to extend the program would lead to an annual payment loss of $468 million starting in 2012-13, resulting in a loss of financial support for construction, roads, education, conservation, and various other government-funded services and projects.

Along with Bennet and Udall, senators signing the letter include Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), John Ensign (R-Nev.), John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-W.V.), Christopher S. Bond (R-MO), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Mark L. Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Russell D. Feingold (D-Wisc.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

Click here for a copy of the letter.