January 15, 2014

Crapo, Bennet, Risch, Udall Lead Fight to Include PILT Funding in Farm Bill

Bipartisan Coalition Signs Letter to Conference Committee Fighting for Crucial Funding for rural Counties

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mike Crapo, Michael Bennet, Jim Risch and Mark Udall are sending a bipartisan letter signed by a coalition of senators to the leadership of the Farm Bill conference committee requesting that funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program be included in the final Farm Bill conference report.  PILT provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries.  These resources are critical to rural counties across the U.S. that use the funding to provide services, such as police, fire protection, emergency response. 

I n a letter to Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the senators wrote, "Counties across the country, particularly those containing significant federal landholdings rely on PILT funds as sizeable percentages of their budgets.  Many of the same rural counties that rely on programs in the Farm Bill also depend of PILT to sustain their economies and serve their citizens"

"Without an extension of PILT, rural counties will face drastic budget cuts in June and may struggle to fund the most basic of services," the senators added.

At this point, the letter has been signed by Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mark Udall (D-Colorado), James Risch (R-Idaho), Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), Joe Manchin (D-West Virgina), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia).

Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have fought to prioritize the PILT program and oppose cuts to its funding.  In 2013, when the Obama administration announced the decision to cut PILT funding due to sequestration, Crapo and Risch called the decision "baseless" and one that could "have significant impacts on local communities."  In FY 2013, Idaho received $26.3 million in PILT payments.

Bennet, who serves as a member of the Farm Bill conference committee, and Udall have been strong advocates for fully funding the PILT program. They have actively pushed essential Senate committees to prioritize PILT funding, and in 2012 the senators led the fight in support of PILT and the Secure Rural Schools funding, which was secured in the transportation bill.

Read below for full text of the letter:

Dear Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Cochran, Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson:

We write to request that the final Farm Bill Conference report include a renewal for the Department of Interior's Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program.  The PILT program provides critical funding to more than 1,900 counties in 49 states and territories, making up for diminished tax revenues stemming from Federal ownership of land within county boundaries.  Unfortunately the FY 2014 Omnibus spending bill did not include resources for this vital program. 

Counties across the country, particularly those containing significant federal landholdings, rely on PILT funds as sizeable percentages of their budgets.  Many of the same rural counties that rely on programs in the Farm Bill also depend of PILT to sustain their economies and serve their citizens.  These dollars help fund essential services like road maintenance, fire departments and emergency medical services.  Without an extension of PILT, rural counties will face drastic budget cuts in June and may struggle to fund the most basic of services.  In fact, some of these counties may be faced with potential insolvency.  The federal government needs to honor the pledge made to our rural counties and fund this program.

We urge you to include a renewal of the PILT program in the final Farm Bill conference report. 

Thank you for your consideration.