Issue: The vast majority of the 15th Legislative District is owned by State and Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Ownership by the public entities dramatically increases the tax burden on local landowners.
Discussion: Approximately 75% of the 15th District is owned by public entities, which provide little to no revenue to local governments in the form of property taxes. Local governments rely heavily on property taxes to finance day to day operations and the financing of capital improvement projects to serve their communities. Although there are instances in which local governments receive "PILT" (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funds to mitigate the reduced tax revenue, these payments are generally less than that which would be produced under private ownership.
Disbursement of publicly owned lands to private ownership may allow the creation of new, innovative programs which would benefit agricultural and forestry producers. For example, a percentage of the disbursed lands could be reserved for purchase by young or new producers. There are several benefits such a program would provide.
Solutions: If appointed as the 15th District Representative, I will work to decrease the amount of publically owned lands within the 15th District. Increased private ownership of land will increase revenue to local governments, increase their ability to finance capital facility improvements to address the needs and desires of the communities they serve and should decrease the overall tax burden on individual property owners.
In addition, I would explore the possibility of reserving disbursed lands for the express purpose of creating an available land base to new or young natural resource producers.