June 22, 2010

Senate and House Members from Both Parties Urge Obama Administration to Speed Up Payments to Counties

$381 Million in PILT Money Crucial to Keeping County Governments Functioning

Washington, D.C. – Recognizing the importance of federal payments to rural counties, 35 members of Congress from both parties are urging the Obama Administration to abandon plans to delay sending Payment in Lieu of Taxes money and release the funds before the end of this month.

“County governments, already facing a dismal economic situation, cannot wait an extra month for these funds, or simply suspend their operations for a month,” the members of Congress said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “They need these funds now, simply to keep their doors open.”

PILT is paid to counties to compensate for the loss of tax revenue due to federal land ownership. Nearly $381 million was distributed to counties across the nation in FY2009.  Traditionally, the payments are made by June 30, in time for the start of the fiscal year for most counties. The formula used to compute the payments is based on population, receipt sharing payments, and the amount of Federal land within an affected county. While the Interior Department distributes PILT to 49 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, much of the money goes to counties in western states where the federal government owns large tracts of land. The program was created in 1977.

While acknowledging that estimating the money due each county is complicated, the 14 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 Harry Reid (D-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), James Risch (R-ID),
Patty Murray (D-WA), Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael B. Enzi (R-NV), Mark Begich (D-AK), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Ensign (R-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT)

Representatives 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), Michael K. Simpson (R-ID); Doc Hastings (R-WA), Betsy Markey (D-CO).

A copy of the letter is available here.