More than 30 Senators Sign Letter in Support of PILT program
Washington, D.C. - Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Republican Senator Mike Crapo from Idaho led 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 for Fiscal Year 2017. This fiscal year, Colorado communities received more than $35.5 million to fund critical services like police, fire protection, and emergency response.
In the letter the senators wrote:
"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.
"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."
The PILT program compensates rural counties for federal lands that cannot be taxed, including parks, forests, Bureau of Land Management lands and wildlife refuges. 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. PILT funding not only provides certainty and strengthens rural counties, but also improves infrastructure and public safety funding programs such as county led Search and Rescue operations.
Bennet and Crapo have continuously fought in the Senate to fully fund the PILT program, and in November of 2015 led a bipartisan coalition urging Senate leaders to fully fund the program. Last August, Bennet also cosponsored a bill to permanently fund the PILT program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund and fund the Secure Rural Schools program for six years.
In addition to Bennet and Crapo, the letter is also signed by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), John McCain (R-AZ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), John Thune (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Barrasso (R-WY), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Lee (R-AZ), Dean Heller (R-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) Ed Markey (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).
Click here or read below for full text of the letter:
September 22, 2016
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
S-230, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Harry Reid
United State Senate
S-230, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510
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.