“Many counties are compensated for the tax-exempt status of federal lands. Counties with national forest lands and with certain Bureau of Land Management lands have historically received a percentage of agency revenues, primarily from timber sales. However, timber sales have declined substantiallyby more than 90% in some areas. Thus, Congress enacted the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (SRS; P.L. 106-393) as a temporary, optional program of payments based on historic, rather than current, revenues. Authorization for SRS payments originally expired at the end of FY2006, but through several reauthorizations the program was extended through FY2012. Congressional debates over reauthorization considered the basis and level of compensation (historical, tax equivalency, etc.); the source of funds (receipts, a new tax or revenue source, etc.); the authorized and required uses of the payments; interaction with other compensation programs (notably Payments in Lieu of Taxes); and the duration of any changes (temporary or permanent). In addition, legislation with mandatory spending, such as SRS reauthorization, raises policy questions about increasing the deficit; current budget rules to restrain deficit spending typically impose a procedural barrier to such legislation, generally requiring offsets by additional receipts or reductions in other mandatory spending.
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