On April 14, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would require the federal government to issue SRS payments beginning in June. The House of Representatives voted on a similar measure last month. Sens. Steve Daines and Tester and Rep. Ryan Zinke all supported the legislation. In 2014, Montana counties received $21 million in SRS funds, part of more than $300 million doled out nationally.
Lincoln County is one of the biggest recipients of SRS funds and will receive about $2.7 million each of the next two years, according to Commissioner Greg Larson. Another commissioner, Mark Peck, said the reauthorization of SRS means the county will be able to avoid, or at least delay, some major budget cuts. A struggling economy has plagued Lincoln County and its coffers took an additional hit last year when it was discovered the county had overtaxed residents by about $2 million.
“This helps us stabilize things because a lot of cuts have already been made,” Peck said. “But we’ve got to find a long-term solution because it’s hard to budget when you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
Montana’s delegation echoed Peck’s concern and said that the federal government needed to open up more Forest Service land to timber production.
“Reauthorizing this important program isn’t enough,” Daines said shortly after voting for SRS funding. “Our rural communities deserve long-term solutions that provide sustainable sources of revenue that are not dependent on the whims of Washington D.C. politics.”