Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have sent a letter to the Senate conferees of the transportation conference committee, urging them to keep the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and county payment programs in the final version of the legislation. The letter, which was signed by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and 24 other senators, stresses the critical need the program fills for counties with large tracts of federal lands and that inaction may result in layoffs to teachers, road crews, police officers and other county employees.
A one-year extension of PILT and county payments (known officially as the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act) was included in the Senate version of the transportation bill via an amendment co-sponsored by Crapo and Risch. The amendment was agreed to by an overwhelming 82-16 vote. A similar provision, however, was not included in the House version of the bill.
"Without this funding, counties' budgets are facing drastic cuts, and potential insolvency;" the senators wrote in the letter, "and this legislation provides the last opportunity to pass an extension before layoffs take place and are made permanent for road crews, teachers, and other county workers across rural America."
The county payments program, as well as the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, reflects the promise made by the federal government to provide financial assistance to counties that have large amounts of federally-owned land. For those counties, that land cannot be used as an economic asset and represents losses to potential property tax revenue. County payments and PILT are a lifeline to rural counties and failure to reauthorize could result in 11,000 job losses, $1.37 billion in lost business revenue and $1.88 billion in lost tax receipts next year.