June 25, 2008

Crapo Makes Strong Case For County Payments

Cites Idaho statistics on road, school, job losses

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo highlighted the potential impact on Idaho communities of a failure to extend county payments on the floor of the U.S. Senate today when he spoke of the need to continue the County Payments program. Crapo joined colleague Senator Larry Craig and other Senators in filing an amendment to a supplemental spending bill that if enacted would continue payments to counties for another year, while the effort continues to extend the program on a more long-term basis.

Congress approved the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act to help compensate rural counties for the loss of timber production revenue. Many counties contain large tracts of federal land that do not contribute to the local property tax base. The timber receipts made up the difference, but those receipts have fallen precipitously and counties are unable to replace revenue to pay for roads and schools.

"More than 100 teaching positions in Idaho alone will likely be affected," Crapo noted during his floor remarks. "It means more than 8,000 road miles will not be maintained in Idaho alone. It means children in rural communities will have decreased access to quality education.

"Shoshone County, Idaho, with a population of 15,000, expects 15 school instructional staff and as much as 55 percent of the county's road department employees to be affected," he continued. "In Boise County, with a population of close to 7,000, the Road and Bridge Department will have to layoff the majority of its employees within one year and only perform those activities that are necessary to public safety. Clearwater County, with a population of approximately 8,000, faces the loss of more than $500,000, which will greatly impact public safety because of lost services for road maintenance and law enforcement. I am told that Boundary County, with a population of 11,000, will not be able to black top roads and will have to let them deteriorate to gravel based roads. We simply cannot allow this to occur in any state in this nation.

"Congress needs to demonstrate it is serious about getting this done. Families in rural communities across this nation deserve no less. It is shameful that Congress may be recessing once again and members will be heading home to their home states without passing an extension. The word disappointing is an understatement. This puts services in rural communities across this nation in jeopardy, and it is simply wrong. We all need to work together to make this more of a priority."