On Thursday, Congressman Paul Gosar called on House leadership to reauthorize and fully fund the Secure Rural Schools and Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs. Gosar’s letter won bipartisan support.
52 members of Congress signed the Gosar led letter including: Robert Aderholt, Dan Benishek, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Kevin Brady, Paul Cook, Jim Costa, Peter DeFazio, Diana DeGette, Suzan DelBene, Mark DeSaulnier, John Garamendi, Louie Gohmert, Bob Goodlatte, Paul Gosar, Raul Grijalva, Crescent Hardy Denny Heck, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Jared Huffman, Evan Jenkins, Walter Jones, Derek Kilmer, Ann Kirkpatrick, Raul Labrador, Doug LaMalfa, Doug Lamborn, Zoe Lofgren, Ben Lujan, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Tom McClintock, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jerry McNerney, Martha McSally, Dan Newhouse, Kristi Noem, Steve Pearce, Jared Polis, Kurt Schrader, Mike Simpson, Kyrsten Sinema, Chris Stewart, Mark Takano, Glenn Thompson, Mike Thompson, Scott Tipton, David Valadao, Peter Welch, Bruce Westerman, Ted Yoho, Don Young and Ryan Zinke.
“As counties across the United States work to balance their budgets, it is essential that Congress act to reaffirm the federal government’s long-standing commitment to public land counties by fully-funding Secure Rural Schools and PILT,” said Gosar in a press release. “Failing to take action and fulfill these long-standing obligations will leave counties and schools across the country without important resources they desperately need to serve their populations. It comes down to a simple choice for the federal government—either give rural communities the funds promised to us, or give us back our land.”
Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen stated, “I totally agree with Congressman Gosar these PILT payments are promises made by the Federal Government to replace the revenue we could generate in our state if we had control of these Federal lands they owe it to the citizens of these western states. It is wrong that every year we have to beg for this money it shows the lack of integrity on the part of the Federal Government.”
Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe stated, “I applaud Congressman Gosar and his diligent work for rural Arizona and for fair Constitutional treatment of our state by the Federal government. In the 1970s, congress passed the PILT Act, ‘Payment in Lieu of Taxes’ or what I like to call ‘Pennies in Lieu of Trillions.'”
“With over 60% of Arizona land under the control of the Feds, Congress decides how much it will pay to Arizona in lieu of taxes for the millions of acres it controls within our state,” continued Thorpe. “Can you imagine a renter dictating to their landlord how much they will pay in rent? Well, that’s exactly what congress does to us.”
“The last PILT payment was about $35 million. If Arizona’s local governments could charge the Feds, for example, $50 per acre in property taxes, that would be about $1.5 billion per year for our cities and counties, and for our kid’s education,” argued Thorpe.
Thorpe concluded, “I fully agree with Gosar, if the Feds are not going to pay their fair share, then they should relinquish control of their Arizona land holdings.”
“With a program that offers a mere pittance of offset towards the real economic losses to counties burdened with large swaths of federally managed lands, divestiture of those lands to the states is of utter import for the survival of our western states and our country,” stated land use expert and candidate for Apache County Supervisor Doyel Shamley.
According to Gosar, the Secure Rural Schools program provides crucial support for law enforcement, transportation infrastructure, and education in the more than 720 counties in 41 states that depend on revenue from federal forests. The program expired on September 30, 2015. Most counties have completed their budgets for the upcoming year and without this program, counties have been forced to cut vital services. As a result, funding for law enforcement, road maintenance and education has in many cases been reduced.
The letter was endorsed by the National Association of Counties (NACo).