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Senator Baucus Secures Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Rural Schools and Jobs

March 8, 2012View for printing

Senator Cheers Senate Passage of his Plan to Renew Support for Montana's Forest Counties

Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus secured an 82-16 Senate passage today of his plan to renew the commitment to rural forest communities through the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs that brought nearly $50 million to Montana counties last year. Baucus' plan to extend both programs for one year is fully paid for and passed the Senate today as part of an amendment to the Highway Bill. The programs expired at the end of 2011, and without this extension, rural Montana would lose funding for schools, roads, search and rescue crews and other important county programs.

"For counties like Lincoln, Beaverhead, and Ravalli, these investments are the lifeline that keeps teachers in the classroom, lights on at the road department and emergency crews on the job. I'm glad the Senate stood up with me today to keep that lifeline intact in a responsible way, without adding a dime to the federal deficit," Baucus said. "These investments are rightfully due to rural counties that are home to large areas of federal lands, and now is not the time to pull the rug out from under them."

The SRS and PILT programs are designed to compensate rural counties for the loss of local tax revenue due to federal landholding. As a lead architect of the Highway Bill, Baucus pushed his colleagues to extend the programs as an amendment to the transportation debate because more than 50 percent of SRS payments went to roads over the last decade, and census data shows much of PILT is spent on highways as well.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, on the Senate floor today, said, "The Baucus amendment is a life line for rural America and particularly for the west and the south, where the federal government owns so much of our land. This money is absolutely essential to keep school doors open, to keep cops out there protecting our people and our roads programs. This program has always been bipartisan since the days when our former colleague, Senator Craig and I authored it. Urge my colleagues to support Chairman Baucus on this and provide a life line to rural America."

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