Payments in lieu of taxes are part of farm bill: $3.1 million for county

Payments in lieu of taxes were included Monday in the farm bill, which is being crafted into legislation that next will go before both houses of Congress.

The program, which provided $3.1 million to Mesa County in 2013, is to be funded at the same level, plus inflation, according to the office of Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., a member of the conference committee.

Colorado counties last year received $32 million in payments in lieu of taxes, which are payments made by the federal government to counties that contain nontaxable federal land. The payments are intended to support local schools, roads and other programs that receive money from property taxes.

Inclusion of the in-lieu payments “is critical to rural Colorado,” said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope lobbying and promotional organization.

Places such as Hinsdale County, which is about the size of Rhode Island and contains about 676,555 acres of federal land, last year received $131,409 in in-lieu payments.

Loss of that money would “place an inordinate burden on the local government and citizens to provide for management” of areas that attract people from around the United States, Petersen said.

“Nowhere in the United States is it acceptable for a private land owner to arbitrarily set his/her own property tax payment or to decide not to pay it when their finances are strained without consequence,” Petersen said in a letter to Bennet, sent Monday. “Yet this is exactly what the federal government is doing with regard to PILT payments.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has introduced legislation that would permanently authorize the PILT program. Bennet is a co-sponsor.

The five-year farm bill is to contain about $24 billion in 10-year savings, a third of which is attributed to food stamps and other nutrition programs.


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