By Ramsey Cox
Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) urged leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee to keep a $425 million program, Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).
They argued the program helps localities offset losses from non-taxable federal lands. Enzi and Udall said without that funding, counties would experience economic hardship.
“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 in a letter Monday to committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
“We urge you to consider the economic hardship and uncertainty that counties across the nation will face if the PILT program is not given consistent funding,” the letter stated. “We understand the Appropriations Committee has some tough funding decisions in the coming weeks and we appreciate your consideration of this important issue.”
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. 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.
Fifteen other senators joined Enzi and Udall — most from states with large amounts of federal land and forests. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), James 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.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) also signed the letter.