Friday, September 13, 2002
Steamboat Springs A bill that would force the federal government to hold up its side of a funding bargain made in 1976 is one step closer to passage this week. The House Resource Committee unanimously decided to send the legislation, championed by Colorado Congressman Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, to the floor for a vote by Congress.
House Resolution 1811 spotlights a program known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes, which compensates counties that cannot collect taxes on large portions of their land because it is owned by the such tax-exempt entities as the Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or military installations.
"Much of the (PILT funds) don't make it through the appropriation process," said McInnis' press secretary, Blair Jones. "We want to make it a law that what counties are asking for is what they get."
Jones said a companion legislation introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., is also awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
If HR 1811 passes, PILT would be fully funded for the first time in years.
"The fact that it made it unanimously through the markup meeting shows that there is momentum behind this bill," Jones said.
In Routt County, PILT money is traditionally used for road improvement.
Northwest Colorado counties have received partial moneys from the program since its inception but have been routinely shortchanged, Jones said.
According to the government Web site, 50 percent of Routt County is public land.
Last year, when McInnis initially introduced the legislation, County Finance Director Dan Strnad told Steamboat Today Routt County's typical payment of $90,000 a year would increase to $225,000 if PILT were to be fully funded.