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Considering myself a hard-core political junkie, I was quite surprised to hear about a new-to-me federal program that has become part of the budget debate in Washington, DC. It's called PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) and helps tax districts around the country with direct payments to counties that fund many of their governmental activities and responsibilities.

The program kinda makes sense and helps explain the fact that many Red States Take more in federal funds than their resident Makers make or send to DC in the form of taxes.

Here's more on PILT if that didn't make sense.

And now, as we progress through another harmful and cynical budget debate, we find relentless Republican attacks on government, on the citizenry, and even on their fellow Republicans just keep on coming: PILT payments have been eliminated in the latest budget agreement that is supposed to take us through the next year or two of budgets:

First established in 1976, the program has doled out more than $6 billion to small counties where the federal government owns big chunks of land. Today, more than 1,900 counties receive at least some PILT funding; Rhode Island is the only state that doesn’t receive any PILT money.

Counties in California received $41 million in federal PILT funds last year, and counties in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah all received more than $30 million. Alaska boroughs and counties in Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming all received more than $20 million in federal funds.

That's some nice, strings-free, Federal guvmint cash headed out to a lot of little guys running your local DMV, registrar, public health and safety, and other government functions.

But deficit hawk Republicans, winning another budget battle, seem bent on cutting these important payments that will hurt localities run by Democrat and Republican alike, and Republicans at both the local and national levels insist on taking those federal government payments from all those Makers sending their hard-earned tax dollars to DC every April 15:

Congress’ broad new spending plan includes no cash to compensate rural counties with federal lands, leaving Western lawmakers scrambling to save the long-standing program before the money dries up in June.

The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program, known as PILT, annually divvies up more than $400 million among counties that have some public lands, the argument being those lands leave communities with a diminished tax base. Every state but Rhode Island gets some of the money. Utah received $35.4 million in PILT funding in 2013, second most in the nation behind only California.

Tasty: free federal money going to all those Red Counties in Red Utah. Who's taking now?
"Oh boy," said Kane County Commissioner Jim Matson when told Tuesday his county may get zilch from the program. PILT makes up a little more than $1 million of the county’s $7.9 million budget and the loss could have a big impact. Some 90 percent of the county is federal land.

"If it becomes permanent, eventually we’d have to restructure all of Kane County governance," Matson said, noting the county provides law enforcement and emergency services to the public lands when needed. "Doggone it if we’re unable to [provide law enforcement services] because of a reduction in PILT, then the feds get to have it, and we have no confidence in that."

Well, Jim, I guess a Real Republican would say suck it up and take some responsibility for your own law enforcement priorities. Commissioner Matson hesitated only a little in giving himself and his 2 Republican peers a nice 85% raise, probably paid for with federal funds.

Utah's Republican Governor took his concerns to President Obama instead of Republicans Boehner, Ryan or Cantor - those driving the destructive cuts to government funding:

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, in Washington on Tuesday, said he spoke directly to President Barack Obama about the lack of PILT funding and how it impacts Western states.

"The fact that that’s not in the budget is a little bit disconcerting," Herbert, a former county commissioner, said.

And here's Jason Chaffetz, just another Hypocritical Republican, advocating for those Lazy, Slacker Takers against America's Proud Makers:
House leaders worked to assuage the fears of Bishop and Utah Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart among other western Republicans in a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Stewart, Chaffetz and others left confident that PILT will be funded in the immediate future. Bishop was surprised the budget bill didn’t take care of this issue, because its exclusion was enough for western lawmakers to threaten to vote against the broader bill.

"Any state with significant federal lands is greatly affected by this," said Chaffetz. "Leadership is assuring us that there is a solution."

The solution is for Red States to keep Taking more money than they send to Washington in taxes. A perfect solution for hypocritical Republicans who only care about the budget when it goes to help the poor, feed the hungry, or when it involves direct cash payments to their elected officials and constituents.

Takers vs. Makers my ass....

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's nice that they've taken a sensible (3+ / 0-)

    position for once.  Too bad they have to wrap themselves into pretzels to do it.

    GOP- no internal consistency except that when something is going to directly affect me, then it is a problem.

    I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night. -Bishop G. Brewer

    by the dogs sockpuppet on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 11:40:02 AM PST

  •  Thanks Zappatero.... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, ybruti, Zappatero, AJayne, Chas 981

    ... good post and a welcome respite from Bridge-gate.
    This is yet another example of Republican legislators waging economic warfare on ordinary people in the rural regions of the West. On this issue,Democrats should pummel the House Republicans who represent those States in the upcoming campaigns. The rural West is populated by  one of the Repubs. strongest bases.
    It may not be enough to convince people...who consistently
    vote against their best oust their entrenched Republican Congressman, but some might have an AHA! moment steps to Progress.

  •  This needs more eyes. It's a great example of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the blatant hypocrisy of the GOP that anyone can understand. It belongs in everyone's campaign arsenal this year.

    Thanks for posting. :-)

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 12:30:41 PM PST

  •  You don't understand the reason for the program (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, realalaskan

    Note the date--1976.  This program was in response to the EPA rules which went a long way to shut down the extraction industries that were operating on federal land and paying the rural counties taxes for the privilege, as well as providing employment to the rural residents.  The counties have large tracts of Federal land within their borders and relatively small areas in private hands, and with the advent of environmental protections and suits by environmentalists to force the EPA to inhibit extraction from Federal lands (see Northern Spotted Owl in Oregon) the counties lost an enormous chunk of their operating revenues as well as a big chunk of their employment and tax base.  The PILT was an effort to mitigate those losses and allow the counties to continue to provide services to residents on a level commensurate with the services provided before environmental protections were placed into effect.

    Over the years, Congress has provided less and less funds, and rural counties have seen services decline, roads in disrepair, fire and sheriff officer response times increase, jail space decrease, etc.  The Federal government and the EPA are held to blame and even areas that were purple have turned red over the years because of it.  Again, it is part of the urban/rural divide and your post illustrates this divide perfectly because you failed to grasp the underpinnings of the legislation and blamed it on the counties because they take from the Feds.  The counties see it as compensation for the Feds having taken their resources and livelihoods from them.

     For a "hard core political junkie", you didn't do very well.

    •  ya, their resources (0+ / 0-)


    •  I do think the program has a valid basis (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      didn't even think about the extracted resources, which I would say are probably way undervalued - which allows the extraction industry to profit greatly while removing resources that could fund county functions.

      I also think it's not unreasonable for the feds to pay nominal "property taxes" to counties for federally owned land.

      But, again, Republicans and their slash and burn policies pretend to help people by hurting them.......nationally, locally and every which way in between.

      •  Actually it doesn't make any sense for the Fed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Zappatero, Odysseus

        government to pay local property taxes. The Federal government doesn't use (so shouldn't fund) any of the local resources. If there's a fire on Federal lands, the Interior department takes care of it. If there is a crime, its federal, roads are paid for by the federal gov't. ...

        This program was just welfare for rural areas, which is OK with me, but probably not how the tough independent Utahans view it...

        •  It's not to compensate for services (0+ / 0-)

          It's to compensate for the loss of local revenue, that could be generated if the local government had the ability to use the land for maximally profitable purposes.

          “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

          by Catte Nappe on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 01:57:33 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Who cares? (0+ / 0-)
            It's to compensate for the loss of local revenue, that could be generated if the local government had the ability to use the land for maximally profitable purposes.
            Huh what?

            County governments provide services for private land.  There is no rational basis for simply giving them money.  The Federal government could explicitly contract with the counties for services for Federal land, or they could provide it internally.

            But I really don't see any reason why counties should be allowed to demand payments for a dream.

            -7.75 -4.67

            "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

            There are no Christians in foxholes.

            by Odysseus on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 01:42:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  RE: You don't understand the reason... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You write "Over the years, Congress has provided less and less funds, and rural counties have seen services decline, roads in disrepair, fire and sheriff officer response times increase, jail space decrease, etc."  Why is that? Perhaps because the same budget deficit hawk, anti-tax fanatics who just eliminated PILT have been whittling away at funding for these services?
      I'd like to know what your solution is to this problem reddog1. What do you suggest Congress should do in this instance? What should the counties do?

    •  ^^^THIS^^^ (0+ / 0-)

      As soon as I got a third of the way into the diary I had an easy A-ha! moment. The way to deal with this problem is to start mining, logging and otherwise developing those federal lands. - a concept much more appetizing to Republicans from local to national; than an idea like the PILT.

      “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

      by Catte Nappe on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 01:54:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The locals want PILT and need it badly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Catte Nappe, Odysseus

        The national R's want to privatize everything and they gut budgets and PILT in the name of austerity with their ultimate goal to be the re-opening of all government lands to extractive use.  The results of the losses of PILT funds began hitting the counties in the past few years. The residents of the counties only know that their way of life crumbled when the mills and mines closed in the 80's and 90's and the majority blame the "tree huggers" and their friends in the Federal government.  There are a lot of pissed off people out here and the momentum continues to build, year by year--I know because I live among them.  For the most part I keep my mouth shut because I don't want to rock the boat and alienate my neighbors, who have an "us versus them" attitude, with the "them" being the "big-city liberals".

        A look at this map shows the result:

        I've tried to explain the rural attitude, here, but I fear it falls on deaf ears because the city residents, which are the majority of the population and the majority on this site, really don't give a damn what the minority in the rural area thinks.  This just illustrates the divide, and I doubt that it is going to end well, having turned into a debate about God, guns, gays and the environment.

        •  Things cost what they cost. (0+ / 0-)
          The locals want PILT and need it badly
          I grew up on a farm 6 miles from the nearest town.  My father's house got "city water" piped to it just this decade.

          It's well known that it's more expensive to provide services to rural areas.  In the past, specific programs were designed to meet those needs.

          Separate the ideology from the practical.  Why should diffuse programs like this bizarre tax transfer be preferable to directed grants?

          -7.75 -4.67

          "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

          There are no Christians in foxholes.

          by Odysseus on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 01:47:31 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  PILT was not solely in response to EPA rules. (0+ / 0-)

      The argument that environmentalists convinced the EPA to "shut down extraction industries" is a tried and true one on the right.  But it ignores the economic realities of diminishing returns for the extraction industry, particularly mining.

      Consider the example of uranium mining and the production of uranium concentrates, U3O8, in the United States.  At precisely the time PILT became law in 1976, the second, and largest uranium boom (first "boom" was in the 50s), was at it's height on the Colorado Plateau in Utah, where I labored to mine uranium ore, and in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.  The price of even low grade ore soared to almost $45 a pound and all over, tax-paying people and mining companies overwhelmed small western towns and counties with the need for labor, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure.  This undercuts the gist of your argument that  rural western counties lost an enormous chunk of their operating revenues and a big chunk of their employment and tax base.  Things were booming but, as in all booms, the bottom dropped out and prices fell.  Uranium prices are up again, about $35 per pound, but they are headed down again, just as the price of coal is now falling because power plants are converting to natural gas and wind and solar power generation are starting, slowly, to come into their own.

      It's economics, not radical environmentalism reddog1.  PILT is all about federal land ownership and these communities not being able to sustain themselves with property taxes, as the larger states, most with private land ownership, can do.  And where there is other revenue from oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing, and timber harvesting on these federal lands, these communities are compensated for that through other federal programs.  

      You shouldn't try to sugar coat the fact that these red states are gladly taking in more federal money than they send to Washington.  They are.  But they hate to admit it and look for any reason to deny it, especially if they can blame environmentalists.      

  •  This is part of a long term strategy... (6+ / 0-)

    PILT funds go to counties with large amounts of federal land. The solution for right wingers is to take that land away from the federal government and make it available to private industry, thus theoretically increasing the available tax base for the county. But we all know these people are virulently anti-tax so after the land is privatized the counties will never see an increase in funds. Along with the privatization will see the elimination of any and all environmental regulations. Basically it would be a free-for-all for mining and logging companies. I see this as part of a long term strategy to open up these lands to commercial exploitation. It's the Sagebrush Rebellion mark 2.0.

  •  Maybe the R's would be OK with allowing (0+ / 0-)

    the states to tax the government at the prevailing property tax rates (Big bonus for LA, NY, DC, NoVa, probably Ohio and TX too), then they don't need payment IN LIEU of taxes...

    Then again, if its federal property, then there aren't a lot of local costs associated with them ...

    Love to see R's advocating for increasing taxes! Not that that's a problem for them if the party being "taxed" is the Federal government...

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