Montana Governor, Congressional Delegation Push for Secure Rural Schools Funding
Montana Governor Steve Bullock is pressuring the state’s congressional delegation to work together to reauthorize secure rural schools (or SRS) funding. The SRS Act was signed into law back in 2000 (see picture), but died in the legislature in September 2014.
“Montana’s schools and counties will be hit hard. Many county roads will lose the necessary funding for maintenance and many schools will be suffering huge budget shortfalls,” Bullock said in a letter to congressional delegates. “I know that each of you share my commitment to the livelihoods of Montanans and the livelihoods of our communities. That is why I am asking for your help in reauthorizing the program.”
Montana State Budget Director Dan Villa says Montana is expected to lose millions this budget cycle.
"The Secure Rural Schools fund is a formulaic expression from the federal government to support our rural communities across the state," Villa said. "What the federal government has done at this point in time is to cut funding to rural counties across Montana by 16 million dollars and the Governor wants to see those funds restored as they have been in previous years."
The funds go to a variety of infrastructure projects, including roads in rural counties. Villa said there is no plan to compensate for the loss of these funds at the state level.
"At this point there are no plans to back fill the federal government one of the reasons why we are one of the most fiscal states in the nation, according to JP Morgan, is because we really do rely on state services being provided for by state funds," Villa said. "What we want to make sure happens is that the federal government lives up to its obligations to these counties and continues funding them as it should be."
Both Congressman Ryan Zinke and Senator Steve Daines wrote to senate and house leadership in support of Secure Rural Schools funding yesterday. Senator Jon Tester has also been a supporter of renewing the legislation.
Many counties, especially in western Montana are expected to take a big hit without SRS funds. Beaverhead, Flathead, Lincoln, Ravalli, and Sanders would all lose over a million dollars if the act isn't renewed.