Everybody Loses - Bill Aims to Increase Feds' Property Taxes - Americans may be required to purchase an $85 pass before accessing any public land


The House Resource Committee staff is working on legislation that would make permanent Rep. Ralph Regula's (R-OH) 1996 "Fee Demo" bill. HR 3283, "America the Beautiful," would require Americans to purchase an $85 pass before they can access any part of public lands that they already support with tax dollars.

All public lands would be affected including Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, all Forest Service lands and lakes and U. S Fish and Wildlife managed national refuge areas.

Additional fees would be required for campgrounds and boat launches and special recreation permit fees for motorized recreation and for group activities.

HR 3283 would scrap the Golden Age Pass that allows senior citizens lifetime access to the national parks for a one-time fee of $10.

If one is caught on federal land without a pass he could end up in jail for six months and be fined $5,000.

There is more than one way to keep the public lands free from human invasion.

Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO) has introduced legislation to "fully fund" the federal government's Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program that is supposed to ease the financial burden incurred by local governments when the feds take land off tax rolls.

The federal government currently reimburses states less than $1 per acre for lost revenue.

Rep. McInnis is missing the point, however. It is not up to taxpayers to support the government's land grab program. The federal government has already demonstrated it cannot take care of the land it controls, hence the public lands fee bill, and it certainly has no business acquiring more to the detriment of local governments.


Bill aims to increase feds' property taxes

Cliff Thompson for Vail Daily
posted on Liberty Matters News Service

June 24, 2004

If you're preparing to pay your annual property tax bill, you probably would like to have the same property tax rate that Uncle Sam gets when tax time comes due.

It's less than a $1 per acre, based on the federal 'Payment In Lieu of Taxes' paid by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The former federal agency owns 235,000 acres in the county while the Forest Service owns approximately 600,000 - that's 75 percent of the county's 848,592 acres.

Eagle County received $841,296 this year, up slightly from last year. Payments to the 64 counties in Colorado totaled $17.6 million.

The congressionally authorized payment-in-lieu program to began in 1976 after it became evident that counties with large federal holdings could not collect sufficient taxes to support their services.

Payments are based on a complicated formula that includes population, federal acreage, the Consumer Price Index and other factors.

"We certainly don't get enough," said Jack Ingstad, Eagle County administrator. "We supply lots of service to federal lands."

The payments totals less than 0.8 percent of the county's $100 million annual budget. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, has introduced legislation to increase or "fully fund" the payments.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at cthompson@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.



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