The Senate Finance Committee has come up with a new bill which would extend the Secure Rural Schools Act.
Secure Rural Schools, enacted in 2000, was a response to the decline in logging in the 1990s. Counties that once depended on a share of the timber profits from their federal lands saw their budgets plummet when logging slowed on large swathes of federal forest land. Secure Rural Schools provided each county with roughly the same amount of money it had received in timber receipts during the boom years. The Act expired in 2006 but was extended for one year in the spring of 2007. Congress turned down a second extension early this summer, and counties in heavily forested Western states—particularly in the Northwest—have already made drastic cuts in county services.
The new extension would run through 2011. It is part of a package that would also extend billions of dollars in tax credits for renewable energy, as well as allowing Washington state residents to continue deducting state sales taxes on their federal income tax returns. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week.