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Delegation: Interior agrees to compensate local governments on time

At the request of the delegation and other western lawmakers, Interior agrees not to delay PILT payments to local governments

June 29, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senators Mike Enzi, John Barrasso and Representative Cynthia Lummis, all R-Wyo., praised the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) decision not to delay payments made to local governments to compensate for the loss of potential tax revenues on federal lands, known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).  This decision comes in response to a letter from the delegation and western lawmakers to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging the department to provide funding to county governments on time. 
“Almost half of Wyoming land is under federal control and unable to provide tax revenue for local communities. It is important that PILT money be distributed consistently and timely. No slow bureaucracy should keep much needed resources from our communities. I am pleased the Dept. of Interior is stepping up to the plate to get promised resources where they need to be,” said Enzi.    
“I am pleased to see that the Interior Department responded to our request and will make the payments to Wyoming counties on time.  In western states, county governments depend on this funding to run our communities.  Rural counties cannot afford to wait for this compensation in the current economic climate,” said Barrasso.    
“Our rural county governments rely on PILT to keep the lights on.  Despite repeated lip service by President Obama and Secretary Salazar, this Administration has shown itself to be completely insensitive to the needs of rural America. I’m glad that the Department of the Interior will make these payments, but it shouldn’t take prodding by 15 Senators and 21 Representatives to get the Obama Administration to not only do what is right, but what is required by law.  I sincerely hope that this urban-focused Administration will wake up to the affects its decisions have on rural residents all across Wyoming and the West,”  Lummis said.
The Department of Interior reports that nearly $4 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting.  These revenues pay for a broad array of federal activities, including PILT funding to counties.  Payment eligibility is reserved for local governments (usually counties) that contain nontaxable federal lands and provide government services related to public safety, housing, social services, transportation and the environment.

Using a formula provided in statute, the annual PILT payments to local governments are computed based on the number of acres of federal entitlement land within each county or jurisdiction and the population within that county or jurisdiction.  The lands include the National Forest and National Park Systems, those managed by the Bureau of Land Management, those affected by Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water resource development projects, and others.