Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined 35 members of Congress from both parties to send a letter to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar urging him to stop delaying federal payments that counties depend on to pay workers and continue operations. The letter follows the Department's announcement that they would be making payments later than anticipated. The Department of Interior makes payments to local counties due to loss of potential tax revenues on federal lands, known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).
"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, to simply keep their doors open," wrote members of Congress.
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).
The full text of the letter appears below:
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Department of Interior
1849 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Salazar:
As you know, many rural counties in the West are dependent on the funding that comes from the Department of the Interior due to the loss of potential tax revenues on federal lands, known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). Nearly $381 million was distributed to counties across the nation in FY2009. This money is critical to keeping county government functioning. Many of these counties have obligations that must be met by June 30 and these obligations cannot be modified.
That's why we are concerned by your department's announcement that it will releasing PILT funds later than anticipated. 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, to simply keep their doors open. Additionally, we encourage your department to provide appropriate outreach to communities depending on these funds.
We urge you to issue these funds at their previously scheduled release date. While we understand that the PILT formula is complicated, it is critical for rural governments that the Department of Interior expedites the release of these funds as quickly as possible. If the Department can only estimate payments at this time because of difficulties in determining the final payment amount, we urge you to consider providing estimated payments that can be adjusted later so that our rural counties are not left stranded while this is 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.
Thank you for your understanding of the importance of this request. We look forward to your prompt attention to this matter.