Bennet, West Slope Leaders Urge Washington to Restore PILT

Bennet fighting for PILT in Farm Bill as member of conference committee

When an accident happens on federal land, county sheriffs and local emergency personnel are often the first ones on the scene. But local governments don’t get reimbursed for the services they provide. And they don’t get property taxes for federal land.

The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program is designed to offset these types of losses by providing federal payments to local governments that have large tracts of federal land within their jurisdictions. But last week’s budget bill that passed Congress did not provide funding for this important program.

This morning, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, Mesa County Commissioner Steve Aquafresca, Delta County Commissioner Doug Atchley, Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen, and more than a dozen other Colorado county commissioners, local officials, and small business owners met in Grand Junction to discuss the urgent need for PILT payments and to press Washington to restore this vital funding stream.

Bennet is fighting to restore PILT funding, including securing it in the Farm Bill from his position on the Farm Bill conference committee, which is currently negotiating the final legislation.

Last year, Colorado received $32 million in PILT payments from the federal government, putting it just behind Utah for the 5th most nationally.

Quote from Senator Bennet:

“These are critical payments that the Federal Government owes to local Colorado communities. The fact that we even have to have this fight is evidence of the wide gap that exists between what happens in Washington, and what folks actually deal with on the ground out here in Colorado. And it’s why we have to keep fighting to make sure this problem is fixed and Colorado voices are heard.”

Quote from Mesa County Commissioner Steve Aquafresca:

“PILT payments are crucial to our western counties. By not funding PILT, Congress is balancing its budget woes on the backs of western states and western counties that host public lands. We’re fortunate in CO that we have a U.S. Senator that’s really taking the lead on restoring PILT payments for Western Colorado counties and communities.”

Quote from Delta County Commissioner Doug Atchley:

“Although we are a relatively small county, more than half of our land is federal. We’re pinching every penny we can pinch and the loss of PILT payments would be devastating.  We’re grateful to Senator Bennet for meeting with us and for working on our behalf.”

Quote from Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen:

“Approximately 70 percent of western Colorado is owned by the federal government. When considering this dynamic, it’s important to realize that this is a significant amount of land that isn’t revenue-generating for those counties. PILT payments are a modest investment in those counties to help them provide basic services like search and rescue, fire protection, and bridge and road maintenance. These dollars are critical to the entire west slope of Colorado.”