House Budget Committee Heeds Western Caucus Call to Fully Fund PILT and Reduce Land Acquisition
from WESTERN CAUCUS NEWS
Washington, D.C. - For the first time, a House Budget Committee resolution has made room for a fully funded Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and discourages additional federal land acquisition.
The recently released report language for the FY05 budget resolution follows very closely the language of a letter signed by twenty members of the Western Caucus urging the Budget Committee to shift funds from federal land acquisition to the PILT program. The Western Caucus' effort to make good on its PILT commitment was led by Congressmen Jeff Flake (AZ), Tom Tancredo (CO), Chris Cannon (UT), Trent Franks (AZ), and Doc Hastings (WA).
The FY05 report language states: "The resolution can accommodate funding for the [PILT] program at the fully authorized level." The resolution also indicated that federal land acquisition appropriations should be further reduced.
Congressman Flake, the Western Caucus issue leader on fiscal responsibility said, "I'm glad that the Budget Committee recognizes that our priority ought to be to fund PILT rather than acquire more federal land."
Congressman Tancredo said, "I'm encouraged that Congress is finally starting to listen to what a lot of us in the west have been saying for a long time; that the federal government ought to make good on their PILT obligations to public land counties before they acquire any more land."
Chris Cannon, Chairman of the Western Caucus, stated, "I am very pleased that the Budget Committee supports full funding of PILT and recognizes that further reductions should be made in federal land acquisitions."
The text of the Western Caucus letter to the Budget Committee is attached below:
The Western Caucus is a group of 60 members of Congress committed to protecting the interests and ideals of the West. The mission of the Western Caucus is to focus on improving the quality of life in rural areas through policies that promote the protection of private property limited government, individual liberty, economic opportunity and personal responsibility.
March 3, 2004
Dear Chairman Nussle:
We believe this can be accomplished by finding savings of $170 million in the combined federal land acquisition money in the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) account for both the Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service and then shifting $114 million of that money to fully fund the PILT program.
This shift in funding would raise PILT funding from $226 million in the President's Fiscal Year 2005 budget to $340 million, which is the fully authorized level. The remaining savings in federal land acquisition money would be used to reduce overall discretionary spending in Function 300 by $56 million, thus contributing to deficit reduction.
It is important to note that under this proposal $50 million would remain for federal land acquisition authority in the budget for emergency federal land acquisition to protect private property owners who must sell their land.
The need for fully funding PILT instead of continuing to fund more federal land acquisition is clear. As you know, PILT funding goes to counties with high percentages of federal land. Counties can not draw tax revenue from these federal lands, and PILT funds provide the funding for schools, roads, and public safety programs that local tax revenue would usually pay for.
Although the PILT program has been authorized at $340 million, it is only receiving $226 million in the President's budget for Fiscal Year 2005. That is one million more than last year's level, but woefully short of what is needed. At the same time, the President has provided over $220 million for new federal land acquisition in his budget, which would add to the counties' need for more PILT funding.
It is important to note that cutting the $170 million for new federal land acquisition would not affect the remaining $730 million in the President's budget for the LWCF, which includes state money as well as the President's Cooperative Conservation Initiative.
Your favorable consideration of this request, which is so important to Western and rural counties, would be greatly appreciated.
Rep. Jeff Flake (AZ), Rep. Chris Cannon (UT), Rep. Doug Ose (CA), Rep. Barbara Cubin (WY), Rep. Wally Herger (CA), Rep. Steve Pearce (NM), Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO), Rep. Butch Otter (ID), Rep. George Radanovich (CA), Rep. Devin Nunes (CA), Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (CO), Rep. Rob Bishop (UT), Rep. Jim Gibbons (NV), Rep. Walter Jones (NC), Rep. Elton Gallegly (CA), Rep. John Shadegg (AZ), Rep. Denny Rehberg (MT), Rep. Jim Kolbe (AZ), Rep. Heather Wilson (NM), Rep. Trent Franks (AZ)
Chairman Chris Cannon
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