During their separate visits with our Editorial Board over the past two weeks, Reps. Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson discussed different approaches on assisting rural counties with federal programs such as Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT). Idaho counties/communities received $26 million in PILT monies this year and have received similar sums in SRS payments in past years.
These federal payouts are to compensate struggling logging areas and rural areas where there are appreciable amounts of federal lands that aren’t on the tax rolls. The monies go to fund schools and other public services.
Citing the country’s deficit, Labrador discussed a SRS PILT phase-out. Specifically he has a plan to replace SRS in a pilot program that would raise money from timber sales for rural communities following a transfer of some 200,000 acres from federal to Idaho jurisdiction and management. It’s a first step that he feels will have the added impact of bringing jobs and better economic opportunities to Idaho logging areas.
Simpson, in discussing PILT, was dubious the state could save much money and manage much more effectively than the federal government because states would face just as many regulatory hurdles. He said along with management and generating timber revenue the state would take on the costs of firefighting and other management duties. He would like to see state and federal lands managers work more closely together and cut out overlaps. On his Web site http://simpson.house.gov/issuestatements/pilt.htm Simpson promises to do his part to keep funding PILT indefinitely.
Below you can view what Idaho’s two Republican House members had to say: