N.M. Senators Vote to Extend Life of Programs that Provide Millions to New Mexico Counties
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today voted to approve a provision to a transportation bill to extend the life of two programs that provide millions to help New Mexico counties fund roads, schools, National Forest restoration projects, wildfire protection, search and rescue, and other county programs.
The amendment reauthorizes for one year the Department of Agriculture's Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Program, which will provide nearly $12.3 million to 22 counties in our state. That program provides assistance to rural counties that rely economically on national forest lands. Additionally, the provision fully-funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program for an additional year. PILT compensates counties for federal land that cannot be a source of property taxes. On average, 32 New Mexico counties share about $35 million in PILT payments annually.
"Secure Rural Schools and PILT have provided a life line for New Mexico counties that continue to struggle as a result of the current economy," Bingaman said. "This funding supports important initiatives in our state and creates jobs in New Mexico communities, and I am pleased we got the support to keep PILT and Secure Rural Schools going for the next year." Bingaman said that while he is pleased the Senate was able to agree to a one-year extension for the programs, he was disappointed there was not sufficient bipartisan support for a five-year extension, as called for in the County Payments Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 1692), which Bingaman sponsored and Udall cosponsored along with 31 other Democrats and Republicans.
"The funding our state receives through PILT and Secure Rural Schools is essential for county economies and the construction and upkeep of our educational facilities," said Udall. "I will always fight to make sure New Mexico gets our fair share of the benefits we earn from the federal lands in our borders."
Earlier this year, New Mexico counties shared $13 million through the Secure Rural Schools program and $33 million through the PILT program, both of which were funded through a 2008 provision championed by Bingaman.