Washington, DC – Citing the critical role that the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program plays on many rural county budgets, Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo Thursday sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid urging them to work together to ensure that the PILT program is fully funded in any year-end legislation likely to be signed into law. The letter to McConnell and Reid was led by Crapo and Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado).
The PILT program compensates rural counties for federal lands that are managed by the U.S. Department of Interior that cannot be taxed. Such lands include parks, forests, Bureau of Land Management lands and wildlife refuges. PILT provides federal payments to nearly 1,900 local governments across 49 states to help offset losses in property taxes because of nontaxable federal land within state boundaries. Such payments are essential for counties across the country and are used to fund services such as police, fire protection, and emergency response. Funding for each county is determined by a formula and is based on the number of acres of federal land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction.
Noting that the federal government is the majority landowner in many Idaho counties, Senator Risch said: “PILT provides payments to counties to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries. Reauthorizing PILT is necessary to avoid severe cuts in our county budgets.”
“PILT funding is an important resource for many counties in Idaho and other rural and western communities,” said Crapo. “The strong showing of bipartisan senators on this letter is evidence that PILT payments are critical to communities nationwide. I will work with my colleagues to secure funding for this important program in a fiscally-responsible manner.”
The text of the full letter signed by Crapo and Risch is also included below:
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid,
We urge you to work in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to ensure the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program is fully funded for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 and is offset in a responsible manner. For more than 40 years, the PILT program has played a critical role in supporting our local communities by providing resources to nearly 1,900 counties across 49 states to offset lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt federal lands within their jurisdictions.
For FY 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior has estimated that $480 million dollars will be necessary to fully fund PILT. If Congress fails to fully fund the PILT program by the end of the year, public lands counties across the nation will be unable to provide essential public services such as law enforcement, search and rescue, public health and critical transportation infrastructure. Without the certainty of full PILT funding for FY 2017, we risk severely crippling counties’ ability to provide essential services for their residents and public lands visitors alike.
Moving forward, we hope Congress can work together to enact a fiscally responsible, long-term and sustainable solution to fully fund PILT in FY 2017 and beyond. As counties across the United States work to balance their budgets, it is essential that Congress act to reaffirm the federal government’s long-standing commitment to public lands counties by fully funding PILT.
We look forward to working with you to end the financial uncertainty facing thousands of counties nationwide, and we thank you for your attention to this critical issue.
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