Bill seeks revenue workaround

White, Baumgardner support law that would keep more local revenues tied to public lands

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— State Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, and state Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, are co-sponsoring a bill in the state Legislature that would help local governments in Colorado keep more of the combined dollars they have traditionally received from the federal government in shared revenues from mineral leases and property taxes.

White told the Craig Daily Press this month that House Bill 11-1218 is intended to help local governments that have significant amounts of revenue from oil and gas and mineral leasing. That includes Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties.

“I just feel like this is an opportunity for us to hang on to more of the money, and I will do anything to keep as much money as possible in my district,” White told the Daily Press on April 6.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said Colorado Counties Inc. asked the two legislators to carry the bill.

In addition to revenues from mineral leases, local governments also collect federal dollars that offset the property taxes the counties can’t collect on federal lands. The payments in lieu of taxes are commonly referred to as PILT monies.

Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad said Monday that local governments that receive distributions of money from the proceeds of federal mineral leases for land within their boundaries typically see a portion of that amount deducted from their PILT funds annually.

“The subtraction is what we’re trying to get away from,” Monger said. “It’s two different pots of money and we didn’t think it was being fairly applied.”

Routt County received $284,000 in mineral lease funds in 2010 and was due $1.57 million in PILT monies last year but saw that reduced to $1.46 million, Strnad said.

White told the Daily Press that the new law would create federal lease districts that would take the money out of county control in order to avoid the deduction under U.S. Department of Interior rules. Moffat County budget analyst Tinneal Gerber told the Daily Press that the bill could save that county as much as $1 million in PILT revenues.

Strnad said he had not analyzed the bill to derive a similar estimate for Routt County.

He said governments in Northwest Colorado already are smarting from the loss of mineral lease dollars in the form of energy impact grants administered by the state.

“My worry is that the federal government might cut PILT entirely,” he said.

The Craig Daily Press contributed to this report

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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