Did you know the schools in Shoshone County can't buy a new bus for next year? And that they won't get a new roof this summer for one of their elementary schools? They don't have the money, because Congress has so far failed to act on its promise to help rural counties that are struggling with their federal lands.
That's what Walt heard today on a visit to Wallace. (I'm posting today from Josie's Full of Beans in beautiful downtown Kellogg. I'm getting in a little computer time while Walt is canvassing the town.)
Idaho counties with large percentages of federal land -- and school districts within those counties -- can't tax that land. And if the biggest landowner in the county can get away without paying its fair share, everyone suffers. That's why the federal government gave those counties a share payments from timber harvests. When those harvests dropped off in the late 90s, the federal government stepped up with payments for their fair share of local taxes. The funding was critical, and keeps many of Idaho's rural counties afloat.
But the current Congress has yet to pass legislation to extend the program for another year. A recent measure went down in defeat -- thanks in part to Bill Sali voting against it. His vote and his inability to work across party lines to solve this problem for rural Idaho could have devastating effects on rural Idaho. But we can do something about it. We can defeat Bill Sali, send Walt Minnick to Congress and have a representative who wants to get things done for everyone in Idaho.