March 09, 2018

Kilmer, Bipartisan Federal and County Leaders: Protect Funding for Timber Country, Counties with Federal Lands

WASHINGTON, DC—This week, Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and a bipartisan group of federal and county-level officials from across the country told Congress to protect funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes programs. These two federal programs help local governments in rural timber communities and areas with large federal land ownership offset tax revenue lost because of the presence of federal forests and other nontaxable federal lands. 

“Timber communities and communities with large federal land ownership deserve certainty that they’ll get a fair deal from Congress,” Rep. Derek Kilmer said“Secure Rural Schools and Payment In Lieu of Taxes programs provide that certainty and help create opportunities in communities. Counties use these funds for vital services like investing in job-creating infrastructure, hiring police officers and attracting great teachers for the region’s kids.”

In regions that are home to federal forests and other large areas of federal lands, tax revenue to fund the vital services people rely on is tied to timber receipts. When harvest levels decline, so does the revenue available to local governments, but the need for services is constant. For more than 100 years, the federal government has helped local communities manage these unique financial pressures. Unfortunately, this assistance has declined since the Secure Rural Schools program expired in 2015. Kilmer is a cosponsor of H.R. 2340 that would retroactively reauthorize the program for an additional two years in order to restore the payments. He’s also working to develop a permanent fix for this challenge.

Kitsap County Commissioner (District 1) Robert Gelder advocated for the funding with Kilmer at the event. “Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) are vital sources of funding for counties with vast quantities of federal timberlands. I so appreciate Congress Kilmer’s support of our communities. Many counties’ infrastructure depends on this compensation program, without which they are unable to support rural economic development.”

In Clallam County approximately 48 percent of the land is either part of Olympic National Park or set aside by the U. S. Forest Service. The county receives approximately $900,000 through SRS and PILT. 

For those reasons Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson (District 2) has also advocated for the protection of SRS and PILT. “If we lose this revenue, we have an ugly hole in our budget. The county would have the difficult choice of what services to cut—the sheriff, roads, or a host of other undesirable choices,” he said.

A bipartisan group of federal and local lawmakers represented the Pacific Northwest. In addition to Kilmer, United States Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) joined more than 50 local government leaders from across the country at the event.