June 22, 2010

Idaho Leaders want Rural Funds Released

Crapo, Risch, Simpson say PILT funding critical for counties

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson say county leaders need release of federal funding distributed under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the Idaho leaders joined 33 other members of Congress from both parties asking the Obama Administration to release the funds before the end of this month.

"In nearly every meeting I have with county commissioners from Idaho, the issue of PILT funding comes up," said Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Budget Committee. "Many of our rural counties lose so much of their tax base to federal land ownership, and the timely release of PILT payments is imperative to ensure that counties recoup lost tax dollars and can fund critical road maintenance projects and schools."

"The federal government has an obligation to deliver these payments to our rural counties in a timely manner. Many have vast reaches of federal land within their borders. That federal land impacts all 44 county budgets in Idaho, from the inability to generate revenue from the land since it is not private, to the cost of providing services, such as search and rescue," said Senator Jim Risch. "It is imperative for the federal government to provide a payment to these counties through a program that has been in place for over thirty years."

"In places like Idaho, where the federal government owns nearly two-thirds of the land, the government has a responsibility to be a good neighbor," said Congressman Mike Simpson. "The PILT program is critical to communities throughout our state, and I am concerned about the impact this delay will have on them. As Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Department of Interior, I am working with them to resolve this issue as quickly as possible."

The letter to Secretary Salazar notes that county governments, "already facing a dismal economic situation, cannot wait an extra month for these funds, or simply suspend their operations for a month. They need these funds now, simply to keep their doors open."

PILT compensate counties for the loss of tax revenue due to federal land ownership. Nearly $381 million was distributed to counties across the nation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. The payments were anticipated to be made by June 30, in time for the start of the fiscal year for most counties. However, the U.S. Department of the Interior recently announced a delay in the release of the funds. The formula used to compute the payments is based on population, receipt sharing payments, and the amount of Federal land within an affected county. The program was created in 1977.

While acknowledging that estimating the money due each county is complicated, the 15 Senate members and 21 House members, urged the Department of Interior to consider providing estimated payments that can be adjusted later so that our rural counties are not left stranded while the problems are resolved.

"At a minimum, the Department should determine if there is any short-term solution to this issue so that a payment can go out to counties this month," the letter said.

Members of Congress signing the letter include:

Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Risch (R-ID), Harry Reid (D-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Mark Begich (D-AK), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Ensign (R-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT)

Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID), Rob Bishop (R-UT), David Wu (D-OR), Greg Walden (R-OR), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), Tom Cole (R-OK), Jim Costa (D-CA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Don Young (R-AK), Cynthia M. Lummis (R-WY), Wally Herger (R-CA), Denny Rehberg (R-MT), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Doc Hastings (R-WA), Betsy Markey (D-CO).