Washington, D.C. – Recognizing the importance of federal payments to rural counties in Eastern Washington, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) signed onto a bipartisan letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today urging the Obama Administration to abandon its plans to delay sending $381 million of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) money until July and torelease the funds before the end of this month.
“This delay is both unexpected and unacceptable” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers. “Because most county budgets rely on PILT funds to operate, they cannot wait until July 15 for payment by the federal government without serious financial implications. I am working with my colleagues to address this situation and make sure these payments are delivered in an effective and timely manner.”
Since the program’s inception in 1977, PILT has paid counties for the loss of tax revenue as a result of land ownership. The payments are usually made no later than June 30 – in time for the commencement of the fiscal year.
In their letter to Secretary Salazar, Rep. McMorris Rodgers, 19 other House members, and 14 U.S. Senators urged the Secretary to address the reality that many of their states’ counties will not be able to function without sufficient government funding by June 30. They urged the Administration to distribute the funds by their previously scheduled release date so county governments can “keep their doors open.”
The full text of the letter is below.
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Department of Interior
1849 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Secretary Salazar:
As you know, many rural counties in the West are dependent on the funding that comes from the Department of the Interior due to the loss of potential tax revenues on federal lands, known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). Nearly $381 million was distributed to counties across the nation in FY2009. This money is critical to keeping county government functioning. Many of these counties have obligations that must be met by June 30 and these cannot be modified.
That’s why we are concerned by your department’s announcement that it will be releasing PILT funds a month later than anticipated. County governments, already facing a dismal economic situation, cannot wait an extra month for these funds, or simply suspend their operations for a month. They need these funds now, simply to keep their doors open. We urge you to issue these funds at their previously scheduled release date.
While we understand that the PILT formula is complicated, it is critical for rural governments that the Department of Interior expedites the release of these funds as quickly as possible. If the Department can only estimate payments at this time because of difficulties in determining the final payment amount, we urge you to consider providing estimated payments that can be adjusted later so that our rural counties are not left stranded while this is resolved. At a minimum, the Department should determine if there is any intermediate solution to this issue so that a payment can go out to counties this month. Additionally, we encourage your department to provide appropriate outreach to the communities depending on these funds.
Thank you for your understanding of the importance of this request. We look forward to your prompt attention to this matter.