Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Senators introduce PILT extension

Federal cash flow to counties could be maintained

Express Staff Writer

     Blaine County may still be able to count on the nearly $1.7 million in federal funding it receives in federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes funds, due to recent legislation whose co-sponsors include the state’s congressional delegation.

     Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both R-Idaho, announced Thursday that they are among those introducing legislation that would enable the federal government to continue to dole out funds through the PILT program as well as the Secure Rural Schools program.

     The PILT funds are given to BlaineCounty as compensation for its not being able to collect property taxes on federal land. According to the Idaho Department of Lands, 78 percent of BlaineCounty’s 2,660 square miles is owned by federal agencies, making the land ineligible to be taxed by the county.

     The county was guaranteed payment through fiscal 2012, according to Blaine County Clerk JoLynn Drage. The county has actually received more PILT funding than anticipated over the past few years, but Drage said earlier this year that she was reluctant to rely on its continuation.

     “All you can count on is what you are guaranteed,” she said in an August interview.

     The legislation would renew PILT funding for states and counties with federal lands through 2017.

      “In many of our counties, the federal government is the majority landowner,” Risch stated in a press release. “When these large tracts of land are locked up by changing policies, a greater portion of education and transportation costs are pushed on to private property owners. As a landowner, the federal government has a responsibility to help shoulder that burden.”

    However, both Risch and Crapo said an extension of the programs is not a long-term solution, and that “Congress needs to have a serious discussion about alternatives,” even as Idaho reduces dependence on federal funding. A joint press release from the senators said the legislation “represents a first step in resolving the long-standing challenges associated with county payments.”

     Among the other original co-sponsors of the legislation are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D–Nevada; Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D–New Mexico, and Lisa Murkowski, R–Alaska, chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chair of the Public Lands Subcommittee of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.


Federal funds

For more on how BlaineCounty relies on outside funding, see “Should county rely on government funding?” by Katherine Wutz in the Aug. 26 edition, or search the article title on

Katherine Wutz:

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