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Crapo, Risch decry federal cuts to rural communities

Idaho’s share of money from the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program is dropping — due to across-the-board federal spending cuts.

Mike Crapo
Sen. Mike Crapo

And on Monday, Idaho’s Republican senators accused the Obama administration of politicizing the situation, making rural communities and schools bear the brunt.

Said Sen. Mike Crapo: “It is unthinkable that the administration would target its cut obligations to counties rather than cuts within its discretionary spending. The president has made job creation and opportunity in rural areas a top priority for his administration yet these cuts will further exhaust and strain the resources of our rural communities.”

Said Sen. Jim Risch: “Once again, the administration is trying to make the sequester as difficult as possible on the American people.”

Idaho was projected to receive $26.3 million in PILT payments for 2012-13; here is a county-by-county breakdown. Idaho’s share was $26.5 million in 2011-12.

The PILT program is authorized to receive $421.7 million in 2013. This is a $21.5 million cut. After administrative expenses, the total payment will be $399.8 million.

Across-the-board federal budget cuts — known widely as sequestration — require midyear cuts of roughly 5 percent in most domestic programs.

Jim Risch
Sen. Jim Risch

Here’s the news release from the senators:

The Obama Administration announced the annual Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments for local governments across the country, including those in Idaho. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch oppose the administration’s decision to cut these payments to meet sequester benchmarks.  

“Local communities in Idaho are going to feel a significant impact with a cut to their PILT payments,” Crapo said. “PILT was enacted to provide payments to offset the impact of the presence of federal lands. Nearly 80 percent of Idaho’s counties depend on these instrumental funds that help provide for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and emergency response. These payments are made based on formulas related to revenue and impacts to counties. It is unthinkable that the administration would target its cut obligations to counties rather than cuts within its discretionary spending. The president has made job creation and opportunity in rural areas a top priority for his administration yet these cuts will further exhaust and strain the resources of our rural communities.”

“Once again, the administration is trying to make the sequester as difficult as possible on the American people. The president talks about investing in infrastructure, like roads, education and first responders, yet the cuts they are making directly impact the very things the administration says are a priority,” said Risch.

PILT are federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries. The formula used to compute the payments is contained in the PILT Act and is based on population, receipt sharing payments and the amount of federal land within an affected county. The 2013 authorized level is $421.7 million, which was reduced by $21.5 million due to sequestration. After administrative expenses, a total of $399.8 million is allocated for payments to counties. 

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

Posted in The EDge