Archive for January 24th, 2008

by jhwygirl

When a 4-year funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act (SRS) was stripped from an energy bill last month just before the close of congress, 34 of Montana’s counties lost out on $93.3 million in funding.

Missoula’s share was nearly $2.7 million. Our FY 2007 SRS payment was $752 million.

This link will take you to a breakdown, by county, of funding for all states that received payments.

Funding was stripped because Senate Republicans objected to the inclusion – which Senator Baucus, chair of the powerful Finance Committee insisted on – of a $21.8 billion measure that included renewable energy tax incentives and repeal of $13 billion in tax breaks for big oil and gas. The White House threatened veto, and the Senate fell one vote short of the 60 votes it needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.

The SRS originally expired in 2006, but received emergency funding for additional year. Now that has expired, and 13 western states face a yearly shortfall of nearly $410 million.

You might recall that last year President Bush proposed selling off $800 million in federal lands as a way of keeping the funding alive.

First signed into law in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, the SRS provides additional funding to rural counties that face shortfalls because of reductions in timber harvests. It isn’t just about school funding. In addition to providing funding for teachers, SRS pumps money into roads and emergency services and provides funding for local police and sheriff’s departments.

Showing his commitment to rural Montana and renewable energy, Senator Baucus is determined to push for the funding package. As chair of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus is in the right position to do that.

“Congress had a golden opportunity to do what’s right for rural America, but they chose to turn their backs on our Main Streets,” Baucus said. “This fight is far from over. We’ll come back and try again and again until we make our counties whole.”


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