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Secure Rural Schools plan would bring $93 million to Montana

| December 11, 2007 11:00 PM

Montana Sen. Max Baucus has brokered a deal that will pump more than $93 million into Montana's timber dependent communities and rural counties through 2011.

Lincoln County will receive an estimated $21,869,760.

Baucus, who is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance committee, which has jurisdiction over all taxes, included funding for the Secure Rural Schools program in his energy tax incentive package. The legislation is slated to be taken up by the House of Representatives this week.

"We are moving the ball towards the goal line and that is what's important," Baucus said. "I want to make sure this vital program is funded, and funded in the right way."

The program expired in 2006. But Baucus and other western Senators secured emergency one-year funding in May for fiscal year 2007.Without Congressional action, 34 Montana counties would have lost millions in lost payments. Baucus' new proposal sets aside $1.5 billion national for the program over four years, from 2008 through 2011. The bill also fully funds the separate Payments in Lieu of Taxes Program in 2008 at $350 million nationally. PILT compensates counties that include non-taxable federal lands.

The Secure Rural Schools program compensates counties who've seen a decline in timber revenue. The dollars are used to pay for education, road construction, and emergency services. In 2006, the Bush Administration had proposed selling of as many as 300,000 acres to renew the program, a move that was met with grave resistance from Baucus and Western states like Montana.

The plan has to be approved by the House and Senate and signed by President Bush, but Baucus said today's deal paves the way for a successful outcome.

"This is big," Baucus said of the agreement he helped craft between Republicans and Democrats. "This deal will throw a lifeline to Montana's communities, pump millions into schools, roads, and community services. We're not across the finish line yet, but darn close."

"This agreement didn't come easily - it took elbow grease and working together. But we are now on the verge on doing what's right for Montana counties," Baucus said.

Here are the additional Montana counties who qualify for Secure Rural Schools funding and a rough estimated total they'll receive over the five-year period: Beaverhead ($5, 000,838); Broadwater ($1,025,813 million); Carbon ($1,040,060); Carter ($512,906); Cascade ($555, 649); Chouteau ($113, 979); Deer Lodge ($954, 576); Fergus ($370, 432); Flathead ($6,981,226); Gallatin ($1,752, 430); Glacier ($1,852,16); Golden Valley ($170,969); Granite ($3,333,892); Jefferson ($1,581,461); Judith Basin ($,1538,719); Lake ($1,111,297); Lewis & Clark ($3,148,675); Madison ($3,419,376); Meagher ($2,2510,89); Mineral ($4,345,457); Missoula ($2,664,264); Park ($3,276,902); Pondera ($5,129,06); Powder River ($1,909,152); Powell ($4,502,179); Ravalli ($5,399,765); Rosebud ($3,41938); Sanders ($9,702,480); Silver Bow ($626,886); Stillwater ($512,906); Sweet Grass ($1,310,761); Teton ($926,081) and Wheatland ($413,175).

Total: $93,363,215