You may not have heard of PILT payments, but they’re pretty important for local economies in areas like the Mountain West. The federal government gives these 'payments in lieu of taxes' to counties with federal lands that can't earn regular tax revenue.
The federal government is doling out nearly $553 million. That’s an all-time high. And the Mountain West is getting about a third of it.
Jonathan Shuffield is with the National Association of Counties. He sid PILT payments are especially important in the West where most federal lands are concentrated.
“Many counties can have upwards of ninety percent federal land within their jurisdiction,” he said. “And when you have such a small tax base that really makes it difficult for county governments to fully fund all the necessary programs that they need.”
Shuffield said payments are high this year due to cuts in another program that supplements rural economies. When that kicks back in, PILT dollars will likely go back down again. Congress always has the option to cut funding.
Shuffield said his organization “would like to see it go back to being a permanent mandatory program so that counties can have that safety and that revenue is going to continue to come in.”
Breakdown of PILT funding by state in the Mountain West:
Utah counties are getting a total of $40.7 million in PILT money this year.
Wyoming counties are getting a total of $31.7 million in PILT money this year.
Idaho counties are getting a total of $36.1 million in PILT money this year.
Colorado counties are getting a total of $40.1 million in PILT money this year.
Montana counties are getting a total of $40 million in PILT money this year.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.