$228 million paid as compensation for lost taxes on federal lands
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced that local governments with tax-exempt federal land in their jurisdictions will receive $228.5 million this year in compensation for forgone tax revenue.
Under the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program, the money is distributed to about 1,850 county and other local governments around the nation to help pay for essential services such as firefighting and emergency response, and to help improve school, road and water systems.
"These communities play a key role in supporting federal lands throughout the year," Kempthorne said. "We recognize and appreciate that vital assistance and are distributing these payments to local governments by June 12 so the funds can help the counties plan their annual budgets."
The Department of the Interior annually collects about $4 billion in revenue from commercial activities on federal lands such as livestock grazing, timber harvesting, and oil and natural gas leasing. Some of these revenues are shared with states and counties in the form of revenue-sharing payments. The balance is deposited in the U.S. Treasury which, in turn, pays for a broad array of federal activities, including annually appropriated PILT funding to counties.
Eligibility for PILT payments 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.
By law, the payments are calculated using a mandated formula based on the number of acres of federal entitlement land and the population within each county or jurisdiction. These lands include the National Forest and National Park Systems and National Wildlife Refuge System, as well as lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and those affected by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water resource development projects, and others.
Payments to individual counties may vary from the prior year because of changes in acreage data, which is updated yearly by the federal agency administering the land, and population data, which is updated based on U.S. Census Bureau data. The per acre and population variables used to compute payments are also adjusted for inflation, using the Consumer Price Index, as required by 1994 amendments to the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act.
Payments are also adjusted for the level of prior-year revenue payments and the amount that a county receives under Sections 6904 and 6905 of the PILT Act. Revenue payments are federal payments made to local governments under programs other than PILT during the previous year.
These include those made under the Refuge Revenue Sharing Fund, the National Forest Fund, the Taylor Grazing Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, the Federal Power Act, and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. Sections 6904 and 6905 provide additional payments for additions to the National Park System and National Forest Wilderness areas.
For the 2008 payments, the per acre amounts are adjusted from the 2007 payment of $2.23 per acre (maximum) and 31 cents per acre (minimum) to $2.29 per acre and 32 cents per acre. The population variables are adjusted from $59.85 (minimum)-$149.61 (maximum) to $61.41-$153.50 per capita. The 2008 payments fund about 62.2 percent of the authorized level of $367.2 million.
As a result of increases in Forest Service timber payments, reductions in PILT entitlement land, a decrease in the prorating percentage and expiration of section 6904/5 payments, the total 2008 PILT payments to the following twenty-three states will be slightly lower than the 2007 payments by more than 1.5 percent: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virgin Islands, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Of the $228.9 million appropriated for PILT in FY 2008, $228.5 million goes for payments to counties and other local governments; the balance funds the administration of the program. — WLJ