WASHINGTON – Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo, applauded the Department of Interior’s announcement Thursday that nearly $31 million in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) disbursements have been issued to Colorado counties.
La Plata County will receive $538,955 for the 432,915 acres of federal lands on which it collects no property taxes.
“The PILT program provides critical resources that Colorado counties rely on to provide basic services like road maintenance and emergency services,” Bennet said. “Local governments cannot recover property taxes from federal lands, so PILT helps offset this lost revenue to counties. We need to continue working for a long-term solution that will give these local governments the certainty and predictability they need to plan.”
La Plata County Commissioner Julie Westendorff thanked the Colorado delegation for its continued work to secure PILT funding in the federal budget.
She highlighted the sheriff’s office, search-and-rescue missions, and generally maintaining access to federal lands as key uses for the funding.
“When it comes to PILT, we expect nothing and hope for the best,” Westendorff said. “This year, we were planning on $575,000 from PILT in our budget, so we’ll have to make that up somehow. Hopefully, we’ll get enough from sales taxes.”
Westendorff said PILT funding is a big deal for Western states.
“Our hope is that one day we’ll have a steady, long-term solution rather than relying on the yearly appropriations process,” she said.
This year, as the House of Representatives debates appropriations to the Department of Interior and pressure mounts to make difficult choices, some members, such as Betty McCullom, D-Minn., question the place of PILT in the bill.
She highlighted a need to increase funding to programs for health and education for Native Americans.
McCullom also said wildfires are disasters, and emergency fire-suppression funds should not be tucked into the Interior bill.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Mariam Baksh is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.