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Senate floor speech notes threats to schools, county layoffs

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo today called on his colleagues to join him in working to extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 and fully fund Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). The so-called "county payments" legislation compensates county governments that lose tax revenue due to large tracts of federal land.

"We must do this to prevent the closure of numerous isolated schools and to enable rural county road districts to address the severe maintenance backlog," Crapo said during a speech this afternoon on the Senate floor. "Time is of the essence for many rural communities across the nation, and this important legislation impacts millions of students and their families in more than 4,000 school districts and more than 7,000 thousand counties. I am hearing from Idaho communities that, absent an extension, personnel layoffs as a result of program closures are expected soon. Communities in more than forty states are facing similar pressures."

Crapo said the PILT Program should also be fully funded. He noted that the programs have worked together to foster collaborative public land stewardship and fund local services. Crapo said he is working with a bipartisan group of Senators to extend county payments, and more must be done to extend commitment to these communities.

Crapo is the Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry and Credit. He noted this year marks the 100-year anniversary of the federal legislation, which required the U.S. Forest Service to return 25 percent of its gross receipts to the states to assist counties that are home to national forests with school and road services. The program was put in place to compensate local governments for the tax-exempt status of national forests.