Reinstate secure rural schools (SRS) payments

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Folks in Lincoln County and across Montana sent me to Washington because I bring Montana values to Congress and make sure that our communities get a fair shake.

Back in 2000, Congress made a deal with the people of Montana. Across the U.S. there were counties that weren’t getting their fair share of tax revenue because timber harvest on federal land was in decline. Making things worse, companies closed mills and left local workers unemployed. So, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program with bipartisan support to provide all those forested counties the funding they needed. That money made a big difference. We paved roads, built schools, and funded crucial emergency services.

Unfortunately, SRS lapsed in 2015, with the final payments going out to counties early last year. Without that funding, schools, jails, clinics, and libraries across Montana could close. Roads will fall apart, and we won’t have enough first responders to keep our families and communities safe. Rural counties won’t be able to provide the infrastructure to help drive our robust outdoor economy.

More than half of Montana’s counties benefited from SRS. And Lincoln County is no exception. The last year that Lincoln County received full SRS payments they totaled $3,860,000 for the year. These payments help pay for essential services and infrastructure.

While Montanans strengthen and diversify their local economies, Congress needs to reauthorize Secure Rural Schools. Without it, a lot of Montana county budgets will collapse, and a lot of Montanans will suffer.

We’ve broken through the DC gridlock before. With bipartisan support, I’ve pass legislation to help veterans, protect our public lands, and reduce government waste. SRS has bipartisan support, so let’s work together and get it done for Montana.

In Montana, we treat each other fairly. Congress needs to do the same with Montana.

Jon Tester is the senior Senator from Montana.

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