Because federal lands may not generally be taxed by state or local governments, the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program was created to compensate local governments for the loss of income due to the presence of federal land in their state or county. In places like Idaho, where the federal government owns nearly two-thirds of the land, the PILT program is critical to communities throughout the state. I am a strong supporter of ensuring that this program is fully funded so that the federal government can be a good neighbor and meet its obligations to state and local governments.
You may be interested to know that during the 110th Congress I supported legislation making funding for the PILT program mandatory for five years. The 2014 Farm Bill included a provision extending this mandatory authorization through FY2015. Every county in Idaho receives PILT funding, and under this law our state received $26 million in 2013. I am committed to fulfilling the promises made to public lands counties, not only through 2013 but permanently, which is why I believe that PILT should continue to be fully funded and not subject to the whims of the discretionary appropriations process. Full funding for PILT was included the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations bill. A portion of the full funding for PILT was also included in the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act.
More recently, PILT has been funded through the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, of which I am a member and former chairman. Thankfully, this subcommittee has ensured full funding for PILT each year.
I recognize that continuing to fully fund PILT is difficult at a time when budget deficits are threatening our economy and it is necessary to rein in federal spending. That being said, I do not believe PILT is optional. PILT is essentially the government’s property tax on the federal land it owns, and it needs to be paid in full and on time. When PILT moved to mandatory funding in 2008, states and counties have had certainty that the federal government would meet its obligations, and I am hopeful that we are able to shift PILT funding back to mandatory funding, where it is not subjects to the whims of the annual budget process.
Ensuring adequate funding for PILT is one of my top legislative priorities. Congress must work harder than ever to fund the PILT program and restore a level of fairness for public lands counties across the country. The least that the federal government can do for these counties is to meet the minimum commitment it made through the PILT program.