Schools in timber country get two-year funding reprieve

It’s official: Schools in Idaho timber country will continue to receive a share of money from the federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

Idaho schools received $7.2 million from the program in 2013-14. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a two-year extension of the $285 million-a-year program Monday.

Grangeville High School
Grangeville High School, in Idaho County’s Mountain View School District. Mountain View received some $1.1 million in Secure Rural Schools payments in 2013-14.

The Secure Rural Schools law funds schools and roads projects in timber country, replacing federal receipts once derived from timber sales.

The two-year extension is not a surprise. The funding was a component of a larger Medicare bill that overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate earlier this year.

“We’ve been anticipating its passage and we are positioned to make the payments as rapidly as possible,” U.S. Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell said in a news release Monday.

But the extension set off some political fireworks in Idaho.

Republican Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador split their vote on the bill containing the extension — with Simpson taking a jab at House opponents, and Labrador questioning Simpson’s character and honesty.

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Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch supported the extension.