Source of worry: Federal land payouts left out of deal

A federal budget deal in Congress includes no money for a program that benefits counties that include large areas of non-taxable federal lands.

The program, known as payments in lieu of taxes, could cost Colorado counties almost $32 million, officials said.

Last year, Mesa County received $3.1 million in payments in lieu of taxes for the federal land within its borders.

If the budget compromise doesn’t include the funding, “It will deprive Colorado local governments of nearly $32 million in badly needed revenue to keep the nation’s Colorado backyard maintained and in repair,” said Chip Taylor, executive director of Colorado Counties, Inc.

Neighboring Utah last year received $35.4 million in PILT funding.

Every state in the nation except Rhode Island receives some money under the payment in lieu of taxes program.

Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said in a statement that the program loss would harm not only residents “but all visitors to our public lands.”

“We need to find a quick and permanent solution to this problem,” Martin said.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said Tipton had serious concerns about the deal.

The budget compromise looks a lot like typical brinksmanship, said Scott McInnis, a former congressman and now executive director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.

Federal budgets have previously failed to include the PILT program “only to make us feel happy when we finally got 70 or 80 percent,” McInnis said.


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