Bryan Smith dismisses ‘crumbs,’ which bring $26 million to Idaho

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.


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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