Friday, February 7, 2014

Federal farm bill includes PILT funds

Blaine County hopes for $1.74 million check

Express Staff Writer

    A 2014 farm bill passed by Congress this week contains $425 million to fund one more year of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Program. That’s $25 million more than the program received last year.
    The bill passed by a vote of 68-32 in the Senate on Tuesday following passage by the House of Representatives by a vote of 251-166 on Jan. 29. According to national news media, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill today, Feb. 7.
    Blaine County’s fiscal year 2014 budget, which totals $27.5 million, includes $1.74 million in PILT payment revenues. Chief Deputy Clerk Leslie Londas said the county has not yet been informed how much it will receive through the program as a result of the appropriation contained in the farm bill. Last year, the county received $1.77 million.

Since 1976, the PILT program has provided money to more than 1,900 counties in 49 states.

    Since 1976, the PILT program has provided money to more than 1,900 counties in 49 states and territories to make up for diminished tax revenues stemming from federal land ownership. The formula used to compute the payments is contained in the PILT Act and is based on population, the amount of federal land within an affected county and receipt-sharing payments from revenue generated on national forest and BLM land.
    In 2008, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act modified the PILT program from a discretionary program subject to annual appropriations to a mandatory entitlement program for five years, until 2012. The program was extended for one more year in 2013. However, the government’s fiscal year 2014 omnibus spending bill did not include resources for the program.
    In mid-January, a bipartisan group of 16 senators, including Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Idaho Republicans, urged that PILT funding be included in the 2014 farm legislation.
    According to the Idaho Department of Lands, 78 percent of Blaine County’s 2,660 square miles is owned by the federal government. Custer County, which has more than double the amount of federal land as does Blaine County but a much smaller population, received $702,000 in 2013.
Greg Moore:

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