Where there’s federal land, rural and local communities must provide government services despite being unable to obtain property tax revenue from land owned by the federal government. To offset this loss in revenue, Congress should continue annually appropriating Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funds to offset the cost of providing services related to public safety, housing, social services, transportation and the environment. That was the message of U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) who sent a letter today to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Interior subcommittee calling on them to fully support and fund the PILT program.
In the letter, the senators highlighted how the program provides critical funding to nearly 1,900 counties in 49 states and 3 U.S. territories to help offset losses to local governments from the presence of non-taxable federal lands. Without that funding, counties across the nation would experience incredible economic hardship, according to the senators.
“As you know, property taxes fund county governments allowing them to provide essential services such as law enforcement, public safety, infrastructure maintenance, education, and health services for local communities. A fully funded PILT program helps to offset the loss of these important revenues and fulfill the federal governments’ obligation to local communities with large amounts of federal land,” the senators wrote.
Udall and Enzi also have concerns with the federal government trying to use a “rob Peter to pay Paul” scheme when it comes to compensating counties. Local communities should be paid what they are owed and that funding should not come at the expense of other compensation those communities receive, according to the senators.
Annual PILT payments are computed by the Department of the Interior based on the number of acres of federal entitlement land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction. The lands include the National Forest and National Park Systems, the areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management, those affected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water resource development projects, and others.
The letter was signed by fifteen additional Senators: Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Mike Lee, (R-Utah), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).