PILT payments in jeopardy; Bishop vows to restore funding
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Jan 16, 2014 | 2429 views | 0 0 comments | 69 69 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Congress went to work on its latest omnibus spending bill, Rep. Rob Bishop said he received assurances that the proposal would fund a key revenue source for counties throughout Utah and the West.

But on the evening before the U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote on the bill, the Utah Republican learned that a bipartisan team of budget negotiators failed to live up to those promises.

Now, Bishop and other congressional leaders from the region are scrambling to restore funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates counties where the tax-exempt federal government owns large tracts of land.

Grand County Council chairman Lynn Jackson spoke with Bishop’s chief of staff on Jan. 14, and he said the congressman is hopeful that the House can find another way to fund PILT through the current fiscal year.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that they will get this PILT program funded,” Jackson said Jan. 15.

If they can’t, Utah’s counties could lose as much as $35 million altogether. The hit to Grand County alone could total nearly 12 percent of its general fund budget, according to Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll.

“The loss of PILT funds [would] have a huge impact on Grand County’s budget,” she said in an email to The Times-Independent.

During the last federal fiscal year, the county received more than $1.11 million in PILT funding, and Jackson agreed that the potential loss of that money this year could have a significant impact on its finances.

“It’s a huge hit if this doesn’t get funded,” he said.

Both Jackson and Carroll planned to meet with other local officials on Jan. 15 to better understand how the potential loss could affect the county.

Jackson was also getting ready to join in on a conference call with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Nevada Democrat played an instrumental role in 2008 and then again in 2012 in preserving PILT funding when the program was set to expire.

Bishop, meanwhile, announced that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have vowed to ensure that qualifying counties receive PILT funds in 2014.

“While many ideas are being considered we are confident that we can find an appropriate legislative path for the measure,” Bishop said in a statement.

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