Mesa County gets a win

Congratulations to Mesa County for its handling of federal money that led to the county keeping $1.6 million that the Interior Department in previous years has withheld.

Last week, the Interior Department sent the county a check for $3.1 million for what are termed payments in lieu of taxes. It’s the federal government’s way of acknowledging that local governments incur costs that can’t be accounted for by taxing property owners because the big property owner, the federal government, can’t be taxed.

Interior has withheld a $1.6 million chunk of its payments in lieu of taxes, or about half the amount it would otherwise have paid, because the county also received mineral lease money.

It takes a lot of circuitous rationalization to dock the county’s in-lieu payments because it hosts federal mineral leases. One is the contribution the American taxpayer pays to maintain the property owned by all of us, The other is intended to aid counties in dealing with the impacts of mineral exploration and development with the money paid by energy companies.

Loopy leap of logic or not, the Interior Department opted to hold onto money that should have gone to Mesa County.

The Legislature established, and then tweaked, federal mineral lease districts in hopes of coaxing Interior to pays its bills, which it did this year, without threatening a clawback.

That seems to have vindicated the strategy of the previous county commission. We hope the current commission plays its cards as well.


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