Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom Counties receive investment from key program for counties with federal lands
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) hailed the release of U.S. Forest Service 2013 Payment In Lieu Taxes (PILT) compensation to counties in Northwest Washington.
· Skagit County received $975,323 – a 16 percent increase over its 2012 payment of $843,863.
· Snohomish County received $1,163,957 – a 63 percent increase over its 2012 payment of $715,396.
· Whatcom County received $1,552,202 – a 7 percent increase over its 2012 payment of $1,453,396.
Through her role in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Cantwell has been a leader in advocating for full funding of the PILT program, which compensates counties for federal land that cannot be a source of property taxes. In 2012, Cantwell supported an amendment (S. Amdt. 1825) to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (H.R.4348) that extended the PILT program for one year.
County governments in rural areas throughout the state invest these payments into construction projects, roads, police and fire departments, and search-and-rescue operations. In total, county governments in Washington state received $17,222,833 in 2013 from PILT.
“This is a major investment for jobs and communities in Northwest Washington,” Cantwell said. “The PILT program is a matter of fairness for counties with federal lands. Counties in Northwest Washington use these critical investments to support economic development by repairing roads and investing in law enforcement and firefighters. These essential services and infrastructure must be in place for workers and small businesses to thrive. I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues to continue these proven investments in rural communities throughout Washington state.”
Under federal law, lands owned by the federal government cannot be taxed by counties or other state and local jurisdictions. In place of taxes, the U.S. Department of the Interior makes annual payments to compensate jurisdictions that contain non-taxable federal lands, including those administered by the Interior Department and the U.S. Forest Service. With these payments, rural counties are able to invest in construction projects, roads, education, and forest conservation to make up for their inability to collect taxes on large swaths of public lands.
Mandatory full funding of PILT is set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2013. Unless Congress acts, PILT will be subject to the Congressional budget process, which could result in lower payments to counties in 2014.
Cantwell has championed these investments in Washington state’s rural communities throughout her time in the Senate. On March 19, 2013, Cantwell called for extending this program at a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. At that hearing she also backed an extension of the Secure Rural Schools program, and sought to make both programs simpler, more transparent, and more responsive to the needs of rural communities. Secure Rural Schools helps compensate rural communities near federal timber lands for revenue lost from declining U.S. Forest Service harvests.
Last Congress, Cantwell was a cosponsor of the bipartisan County Payments Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 1692), which would extend Secure Rural Schools for five years as well as fully fund PILT for five additional years. She joined 26 other Senators last May in sending a letter to the Senate conferees negotiating a final transportation reauthorization agreement with the House urging the extension of the PILT program.