McInnis pushes for PILT |

McInnis pushes for PILT

Commissioners say federal government funding is owed, needed

Josh Nichols

A congressional bill local officials believe will provides thousands of dollars to all public county entities has met unanimous first round approval in Washington.

Introduced by Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., the bill would reimburse local governments for lost property taxes stemming from the presence of tax-exempt federal lands in counties.

Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson has said that last year Moffat County received 61 cents per acre for the 1.6 million acres of federal land in the county.

If the county were reimbursed fully through the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which McInnis’ legislation aims to do, the county should have received $1.03 per acre, almost doubling the $300,000 Moffat County received last year.

The legislation would return both PILT and the Refuge Revenue Sharing program to full funding, which needs to be done for rural communities, McInnis said in a press release.

“Rural America relies on these programs to produce dollars for everything from roads to schools and social services,” McInnis said. “When Congress shortchanges PILT and the Refuge Revenue program, rural Americans suffer.”

Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said it is difficult to get those at the national level, especially representatives from the East, to understand the concept of public land.

“The Eastern part of the United States is all private land and they don’t understand the concept of public land,” she said. “They cut money from rural areas with public land and we do not have enough votes to fight for this.”

Moffat County would see a significant impact if programs like PILT became fully funded, she said.

“It would be a huge benefit because we have not been adequately funded for many years,” she said.

Local government, the schools, and Colorado Northwestern Community College would all benefit, she said.

“We’ve been working on this for years and Scott (McInnis) is the key to get this through Congress,” she said. “This would mean additional dollars for everybody.”

The passage of McInnis’ legislation would “provide an influx of federal dollars for rural counties that are financially hamstrung by the predominance of tax-exempt federal lands in their area,” according to McInnis’ office.

The PILT program was started in 1976.

“Nowhere is PILT more important than it is to us in rural Colorado,” McInnis said. “As it stands now, our locally elected officials are in a financial straight-jacket, and only Congress can provide them the relief they need.”

The federal government owes local government that money, Dickinson has said.

“The whole issue is one of fairness,” he said. “The federal government is not paying its share of taxes to local government.”

The next step for the bill, which passed unanimously in the House Resources Committee Thursday, is debate on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Blair Jones, spokesperson for McInnis’ office, said he could not predict when the bill would reach the floor.

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