Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), urging them to include a reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program in any end-of-year legislation. SRS supports public schools, public roads, forest health projects, emergency services, and many other essential county services for more than 775 counties across the country.
The SRS program expired on September 30, 2015, and it has not been reauthorized for Fiscal Year 16 or beyond. Forest counties and schools received their last authorized SRS payment in 2016. Without SRS, existing revenue-sharing payments are not sufficient to support critical services these counties must provide.
"The SRS program continues to be a critical safety-net for forest counties as we work to diversify rural economies, improve forest management and forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments, and ensure that our forests provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, and wood fiber for local economies," the senators wrote. "In the interest of working together in a bipartisan way to support local rural communities, we ask that you include a reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools in any end-of-the-year legislation. We appreciate your assistance with this matter."
Bennet has introduced legislation to reauthorize SRS, which would restore funding for schools and infrastructure in 43 Colorado counties. Last year, Colorado received $11.8 million in SRS funding, based on Fiscal Year 2015 revenues. 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.
A copy of the letter is available HERE.