PILT payments land with a thud

Nevada’s U.S. senators both sent out press releases boasting about all the money Nevada counties will be getting from the feds to help cover the expense of having so much non-taxable federal public land within their borders — called Payment in Lieu of Taxes. This year’s payment Nevada checks amount to $27.25 million, an increase of about $250,000 from the previous year.

“I applaud the Department of Interior for providing these payments to the state of Nevada,” said Jacky Rosen’s press release.  “These funds will be used to support essential services — especially in our rural communities — such as law enforcement, education, emergency services, health care, and road maintenance.”

Catherine Cortez Masto’s press release states, ““The Department of the Interior’s PILT program is a vital resource for Nevada’s local governments and helps fund the public safety, housing, transportation and outdoor recreation projects that Nevada’s rural counties need to thrive. I’ll continue to support the long-term stabilization of the PILT program so that local leaders and innovators can invest in development projects right here in our communities in Nevada, and plan for the future with certainty that federal support will be there for them.”

Neither makes any mention of the fact the PILT handout nationally was cut by 7 percent from the previous year. Nor do they mention that the $500 million being doled out this year is a paltry fraction of the $11.9 billion in revenue that federal land generates annually from oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing, timber harvesting, etc.

Nor do they note the impenetrable formula used to calculate the checks, which is based on the number of acres of federal land within each county and on the population of that county.

While 85 percent of Nevada land is federally controlled, its total PILT checks equal 48 cents per acre of federal land, about the same as the prior year, while every other Western state gets at least double that amount, even though their acreage percentage is far less and their populations not that dissimilar, except for California.

And the checks within the Nevada vary wildly. For example, Esmeralda County gets 7 cents an acre, while Douglas gets $2.74; Eureka, 17 cents; Washoe, $1.25; Clark, 75 cents; White Pine, 25 cents; Nye, 39 cents; Elko, 46 cents; Lincoln, 15 cents; Mineral, 39 cents.

Here are this year’s PILT payments per acre for the Western states:



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