(U.S. Senate Press Release, April 1, 2021)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (both R-Idaho) joined U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) in introducing the Making Obligations Right by Enlarging Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act, or MORE PILT Act. This bill would direct the Secretary of Interior to conduct a study on federal lands eligible for PILT payments to determine the actual property value of the land and the foregone property tax revenues that counties would have otherwise received.
“Every single county in Idaho relies on the PILT program to fund critical county services and compensate for the tax base lost to federal lands,” said Risch. “Unfortunately, these payments do not begin to make up for the actual revenue loss rural communities sustain. This legislation is a critical step to ensuring counties are made whole.”
“PILT payments are critical to rural Idaho counties that rely on the funds for essential services like roads and law enforcement,” said Crapo. “The MORE PILT Act would better reflect the value of land in Idaho owned by the federal government, in turn meeting the ongoing needs of those counties. The pandemic has stretched local budgets even thinner, and continued improvement on the PILT program will help these areas obtain a more sustainable funding stream.”
“Without a property tax base, and with woefully inadequate PILT payments, Western states and communities struggle to fund their schools, infrastructure, and vital community services,” said Lee. “This bill will help ensure that PILT payments more accurately reflect the lands’ value, so that the citizens of our public lands states have the means they need to both survive and thrive.”
Background: States, counties, and local governments are not able to collect property taxes on public lands in their jurisdictions. The Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program was established in 1977 to provide funding to offset the absence of property tax revenue. PILT payments have historically been a small fraction of what local governments would otherwise generate through property taxes, leaving rural communities in Western states with limited funds for essential infrastructure and services.