The U.S. Senate has passed an end-of-year funding package that includes a two-year authorization of the Secure Rural Schools program to help rural communities in Idaho and elsewhere.
Idaho Republican U.S. Senator Mike Crapo says the legislation sent to the president’s desk includes a more permanent role in assisting rural counties fund critical services like schools, road improvements, and law enforcement through the SRS.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. Critical services at the county level have historically been funded in part with a share of timber receipts from federal U.S. Forest Service lands. As those revenues have fallen or fluctuated due to reduced timber harvest and market forces, SRS payments helped bridge the gap to keep rural schools open, provide road maintenance, support search and rescue efforts, and other essential county services. In recent years, however, Congress has allowed SRS funding to lapse and decrease, creating massive uncertainty for counties.
Meanwhile, the funding package also includes a measure backed by Senator Crapo to encourage investment in short line railroad operations. The bill provides an extension of the Section 45G tax credit for short line railroad track maintenance expenditures through 2022. Crapo mentioned Lewiston by name as one of the Idaho communities served by short line rail, as well as Moscow, Cottonwood, Harvard, Spalding, St. Maries, Bovill, Idaho Falls, Burley, Twin Falls, and Boise. (Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo)