Second District GOP congressional candidate Bryan Smith brushes aside the importance of federal PILT money — payment in lieu of taxes — but a reader alerted me this morning about how much it matters in delivering local services.
The U.S. Department of Interior has a website cataloging payments by state, county, acres and agency source. In fiscal 2013, Idaho’s 44 counties will receive $26.3 million from PILT to compensate for 32.6 million acres in federal ownership.
Seven counties get over $1 million: Elmore ($2.1 million), Cassia ($2 million), Blaine ($1.8 million), Idaho ($1.5 million), Twin Falls ($1.5 million), Owyhee ($1.2 million) and Bonneville ($1.1 million).
Five of those counties — Elmore, Blaine, Cassia, Twin Falls and Bonneville — are in the 2nd District, where Smith is running an insurgent campaign against eight-term Republican Rep. Mike Simpson. Simpson, as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, has considerable influence on sustaining PILT.
Last week, Smith appeared at the Elmore County GOP Central Committee, where former County Commissioner Arlie Shaw said loss of PILT would mean “deep trouble” for Elmore County and prompt steep property tax hikes or spending cuts.
Smith dismissed the program as “begging for crumbs” and said he would focus on convincing Congress to “give back” federal land to Idaho and other states.
Smith, making his first race for public office, may be unfamiliar with the broad influence of county elected officials who provide every-day services across Idaho. One interesting aspect of the campaign for the May 2014 GOP nomination will be how Smith pitches his plan to give up the bird-in-hand for a Sagebrush Rebel’s dream.