Newspaper column: PILT funding left out of spending bill, what now?

PILT is not Western welfare, protests Rep. Mark Amodei.

PILT is a federal obligation, insists Sen. Dean Heller.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes is how Congress, since 1976, has attempted to provide relief to counties with large tracts of non-taxable federal land so they can provide police and fire protection, education and other public services, as noted in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

RJ Matson of Roll Call 2007

In the final hours this past week of hammering out a $1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government through September, Western congressmen discovered there was no money for PILT, which can amount to more than 10 percent of the budgets of some rural counties. For Nevada in 2013 payments totaled $23 million or 40 cents an acre.

“It was news to most of us that it wasn’t in the bill. …” explained Amodei.

Heller was the only member of the Nevada delegation to vote against the omnibus bill, at least partly because it lacked PILT funding.

Amodei explained that part of the problem is that in 2009 PILT came out of the Interior Department’s budget and went into TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).

“That effort was led by none other than our pal Senator Harry Reid. So it funded it for five years in TARP but it wasn’t in the Interior bill anymore. So when we all started screaming formally, it was like, well, it hasn’t been in there,” Amodei recounted.

Amodei said Speaker John Boehner, in front of 30 Western House members, promised PILT would be funded, probably in the farm bill.

Rep. Steven Horsford, whose district covers the rest of rural Nevada and part of Clark County, also pledged to restore PILT funding. “PILT is critical to rural counties in my district, and it makes up a significant portion of many budgets for traditionally underserved communities,” he said. 

Amodei also cautioned that there still is no assurance PILT will be funded at 100 percent.

Read the entire column at the Ely or Elko site.