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Idaho's Rep. Labrador Votes Against Secure Rural Schools Funding

Gage Skidmore
Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho's two representatives split their votes on a bill that was overwhelmingly supported in the U.S. House Thursday that reauthorizes timber payments to rural counties with a lot of federal land.

The Secure Rural Schools Act reauthorization was tucked inside a $214 billion bill that blocks cuts in doctors' Medicare payments.

Just 37 House members voted against the bill, while 392 supported it. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, was one of the 'no' votes.

"Congressman Labrador has long advocated a lasting solution for Secure Rural Schools," a spokesman said in a written statement. "Attaching two years of SRS funding to a completely unrelated Medicare bill that adds $141 billion to our $18 trillion debt  was unacceptable. The Congressman will continue his effort to enact lasting reforms empowering rural counties to generate revenue from underutilized federal forests."

The Secure Rural Schools Act was first approved by Congress in 2000 as a way to supplement revenue in rural counties that have a lot of federal land that isn't taxable or available for development. Congress let the act expire late last year.

Thirty-five Idaho counties receive the money. The counties were due $28 million in payments this year, but instead received $2 million.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, voted for the funding bill. In a statement, Simpson said the bill isn't perfect, but you'd "have to look long and hard to find a reason to vote no."

Simpson said lawmakers now need to look for a more permanent solution to funding rural schools and counties.

“My western colleagues and I have been working tirelessly to ensure Congress address the immediate needs of Secure Rural Schools payments and I was thrilled that H.R. 2 offered the solution,” Simpson said. "We must now turn our attention to enacting a long-term and sustainable solution that doesn’t stick Idaho’s rural counties with the annual uncertainty of an up or down vote from Congress.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.

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