Heinrich Calls For Reauthorization Of SRS, PILT Programs To Ensure Financial Certainty For Rural New Mexico Counties

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is urging Congressional Leadership to include a reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) and maintain robust Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program funding as part of the Appropriations process.

Heinrich, along with a bipartisan group of senators, sent the letter to Senate and House Leadership as the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten rural counties’ ability to properly fund basic services. Both of these vital programs ensure many of New Mexico's rural counties are able to pay for police and fire protection, emergency response, schools, road maintenance, and other crucial services. In 2020, New Mexico received $41 million in PILT funds and $9.3 million in SRS funds.

“SRS and PILT serve as a lifeline to rural America’s local governments and now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the budgets of these rural counties have taken a hit. These two programs fund roads, schools, law enforcement, and essential county services, such as public health programs. With additional demands on their resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, rural communities and counties are stretched thinner than ever,” wrote the senators. “Congress must include a reauthorization of SRS, including the programmatic amendments to S. 430 passed on a broad bipartisan basis in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”

Read the full text of the letter below or by clicking here.

Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy:

We write to share our steadfast support for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) and the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. Specifically, we urge you to include a reauthorization of SRS and maintain robust PILT funding as part of the appropriations process.

SRS and PILT serve as a lifeline to rural America’s local governments and now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the budgets of these rural counties have taken a hit.

These two programs fund roads, schools, law enforcement, and essential county services, such as public health programs. With additional demands on their resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, rural communities and counties are stretched thinner than ever.

Despite being small, rural, and generally relatively remote, county governments that rely on SRS and PILT are responding to the same national health crisis facing larger cities and urban areas. Extending and funding these two programs has wide, bipartisan support, which was on display as recently as 2019, when the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on PILT and SRS.

As Congress works 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 public lands provide a range of values such as clean water, jobs, grazing opportunities, and wood fiber for local economies, a short-term reauthorization is critical for counties across the country.

In order to assist these rural counties’ response to the current public health crisis, as well as to invest in infrastructure, schools, and law enforcement, Congress must include a reauthorization of SRS, including the programmatic amendments to S. 430 passed on a broad bipartisan basis in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Further, we urge you to maintain robust funding for PILT as you continue funding negotiations for the remainder of the fiscal year.