WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today joined 32 of his Senate colleagues in requesting that any end-of-year legislation include at least a two-year reauthorization of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) programs. With two-thirds of Utah held as public land, the PILT program helps to fund local services including road and bridge maintenance, law enforcement, and emergency medical, in many of Utah’s rural counties. The SRS program provides funding for schools and infrastructure in rural counties throughout Utah. Last year, Utah counties received $40.9 million through PILT and $9.1 million through SRS.
“Congress has an obligation to ensure counties with large swaths of federally-owned, tax-exempt forests and rangelands can adequately provide essential services for their residents,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “As history has proved, without the certainty of these two critical programs, schools, libraries, and jails will close. The services counties continue to provide will see a reduction in staffing and resources. Roads will go unpaved and become unsafe. Mental health and physical health services will be scaled back and in some cases even ended. Fewer and fewer law enforcement officers will be forced to patrol larger and larger areas.
“As we work to establish a permanent county payments solution, diversify rural economies, improve forest management and forest health, strengthen historic forest revenue sharing with local governments, and ensure that our public lands provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, grazing opportunities, and wood fiber for local economies,” the senators continued, “a short-term reauthorization of at least two years is critical to provide fiscal certainty for counties containing federally-owned lands.”
The letter, led by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Mike Crapo (R-ID), is signed by: Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Tom Udall (D-NM), Steve Daines (R-MT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tina Smith (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT).