Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Farm Bill revives payments in lieu of taxes, a boon to rural counties, especially in the West

The final Farm Bill, which passed the House Wednesday on a 251-166 vote, includes more than $400 million for the recently expired payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) program, which "are meant to compensate local governments for services they provide on federal lands, which are not subject to local property taxes," reports the Daily Yonder. PILT divides "$425 million among some 1,850 counties in 49 states."

PILTs are especially popular in rural areas in the West, where most federal land is located. In 2013, New Mexico received $34.7 million, and areas like San Juan County—with a population of 128,000 in the northwestern part of the state—received $2 million, or 6 percent "of the county's $34 million general fund that year," Ryan Boetel reports for The Daily Times in Farmington.

Payments to other Western states, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, were: California, $38 million; Utah, $34 million; Arizona, $31 million; Colorado, $27 million; Alaska, $25 million; Idaho, $25 million; Wyoming, $25 million; Montana, $24 million; Nevada, $22 million; Oregon, $13 million; and Washington, $13 million. No other state received more than $5 million.

Mike Murray, a county commissioner from Lewis and Clark County, Montana, and chair of the National Association of Counties Public Lands Steering Committee, told the Yonder, “We are most pleased that the federal government will once again renew its obligation to America’s counties which are unable to collect property taxes from the nation’s 606 million-acre estate yet are responsible to provide services on these lands." (Read more)

PILTs have been around for about 35 years but were only recently added to the Farm Bill by House Republicans as a way to help save the bill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) "promised to help after PILT found itself left out of the omnibus spending bill enacted earlier this month," David Rogers reports for Politico. "And it could prove a bit of fortunate log rolling by Lucas since many of the same Western Republicans who wanted the PILT money are also allies of the cattle and beef lobby," which opposed the final version of the bill because it made no substantive changes to the law requiring meat to be labeled with its country of origin. (Read more)

No comments: