Senator Jon Tester is introducing bipartisan legislation to fully fund two essential initiatives that support Montana rural counties, Secure Rural Schools & Payment in Lieu of Taxes.

“Counties across Montana are taking a hit, because some in Congress don’t understand rural America.  My bill will make sure that Montana counties can provide the essential services that keep our local economies strong,” Tester said.  “PILT and SRS help ensure counties can continue to provide safe roads and bridges, law enforcement, and a quality education.”

SRS was enacted in 2000 to provide payments to support local schools and roads in more than 30 Montana counties.  The program helps compensate counties with federal land that has seen declining timber production in recent years. SRS was not reauthorized after 2013, causing Montana counties to lose $21 million since the last payment.

PILT payments are made to 55 Montana counties with federal lands that are not taxable by local governments, but the lands’ presence creates demands for local government services like law enforcement and infrastructure.  Full funding for PILT payments expired in 2014. Congress provided nearly full funding of $405 million for the current fiscal year, but future funding for the program is not guaranteed.

Together, these initiatives contribute approximately $50 million every year to local Montana communities.