Mr. BAUCUS. Madam President, I come to the floor today with my friend Chairman Wyden to express support for extending natural resource programs that are critical to communities across the country. This week the Senate passed a bipartisan budget resolution. In January we will return to consider legislation to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.
This past October, Congress was able to extend critical payments to forested counties under the Secure Rural Schools, SRS, program for 1-year in a bipartisan fashion. Irrespective of the appropriations bill that we may take up in January, we now need to do the same for counties eligible for payments under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program, or PILT. PILT is a permanently authorized program created in 1976 that since 2008 has received direct spending. It is an essential source of funding for local governments that cannot collect taxes from Federal land within their borders.
A long-term solution to provide stable direct funding for PILT and other natural resource programs that buttress rural economies, like SRS and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, is our common goal. In the meantime, we remain committed to extending direct spending on PILT and look forward to finding an opportunity to do so in the first half of 2014. Does the distinguished senator from Oregon wish to express himself on these points?
Mr. WYDEN. Madam President, I wish to associate myself with the comment of my friend from Montana and affirm that I too share the commitments he described. These payments extend a vital lifeline to counties across America, many of which are perched on the edge of financial disaster. Securing that funding has been a top priority for me this Congress. I am pleased that Congress found a way to continue its commitment to the Secure Rural Schools Program thanks to the helium bill that I worked on with colleagues in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. There is still work to do for the 1,850 PILT-eligible counties, and I look forward to working with the majority leader and Chairman Baucus--who are both longtime champions of PILT--and other supportive colleagues to find a short-term extension and also a long-term solution for these communities.