Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are leading a movement to add the federal PILT program — an acronym for payment in lieu of taxes — to the Farm Bill.
PILT was originally under consideration by the U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees, but was left out of the fiscal 2014 Omnibus Funding Bill, which passed both houses earlier this week.
A bipartisan coalition of western senators, led by Udall and Bennet, issued a letter to the farm bill conference committee requesting that funding for the PILT program be included in the committee’s final farm bill report. The letter was signed by 16 senators from Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Alaska, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, Arkansas and California.
“We think we’re very close to a farm bill and hopefully we’ll have PILT in there,” said Adam Bozzi, communications director for Sen. Bennet. “We should know in the next week or two if we’re going to see the farm bill (for a vote) before the end of January and if PILT will be included. We’re pretty optimistic about both.”
Bennet serves as a member of the farm bill conference committee.
PILT provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their jurisdictions.
PILT payments are often used to fund public services, such as police, fire protection, emergency response and transportation.
Last year, Summit County received a PILT payment of $475,574 to offset lost property tax revenue from the county’s vast expanse of U.S. Forest Service lands. Summit County manager Gary Martinez said PILT money is spread throughout the general fund and is vital to maintaining certain services, especially as the county continues to recover from the recession.
Although sales tax revenue rebounded last year for the first time since 2007, property tax revenue will continue to decline during the next two years due to a second reduction in Summit County’s assessed valuation, Martinez said.
“Just like everyone else revenues are flat or down, so when you have something like PILT and can factor that into various areas of the budget, it makes a difference,” Martinez said. “It’s important for us and we’d sure like to see it again.”
Over in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jared Polis, D-Boulder, also is trying to save the PILT program.
Earlier this week he and representatives from Arizona and Florida introduced legislation that would permanently authorize funding for PILT.
Scott Overland, communications director for Polis, said the legislation is a standalone companion bill to the efforts Udall and Bennet are working on in the Senate.
“PILT is a priority for Congressman Polis and he’s going to look at every avenue to secure funding for the program,” Overland said. “Chairman Rogers (of the House Appropriations Committee) and House Speaker (John) Boehner also are committed to getting PILT funded.”