U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced last week that 55 Montana counties will receive a combined total of $31.8 million in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) for 2017. PILT payments are awarded to counties with federal lands that are not taxable by local governments, but the lands’ presence creates demands for local government services, such as law enforcement and infrastructure.
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester worked with Republicans and Democrats to secure these resources in the federal budget earlier this year, it stated in his press release.
“PILT payments help Montana counties provide critical services and keep a balanced budget,” Tester said. “Local officials will use these resources to builds roads, support important infrastructure projects, and bolster local police and fire departments. I know how important PILT payments are to Montana, and I will keep fighting to secure these essential investments for rural communities.”
Sen. Steve Daines, who also serves on the committee, said, “PILT payments are essential for Montana’s rural counties – to keep our public services operating. The PILT program provides critical support for the safety of Montana’s rural counties. Thank you, Secretary Zinke, for releasing this important funding.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Whitefish native, said in a press release, “As a kid who grew up in northwest Montana and whose sons graduated from the same high school as I did, I know how important PILT payments are to local communities that have federal lands. These investments are one of the ways the federal government is fulfilling its role of being a good land manager and good neighbor to local communities.”
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-31) reauthorized the PILT Program for FY2017. Congress appropriated $464.6 million for payments to counties in June 2017, which is roughly $13 million more than last year. The payments represent the largest amount ever allocated in the program’s 40-year history.
Ravalli County received $2,375,857 in PILT payments this year, up by $137,800 from last year. The county, which is about 70% federally owned forest land, depends heavily on PILT payments to balance its budget. The county ranks third highest in the state for the amount of PILT money received this year, the other top recipients being Flathead County at $2.6 million and Lewis and Clark County at $2.5 million. The money is distributed to the counties on the basis of a formula based on the acreage of federally owned land and the population of the county.
President Trump is proposing to cut PILT by 15 percent in his 2018 budget. Tester has called on the Administration to reverse course and fully fund PILT for Montana counties.