Congressmen Urge Payments To Rural Counties
By Payson Roundup,
“Congressman Paul A. Gosar (R-Prescott), whose district includes Rim Country, joined in the call for restored funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) in fiscal year 2016.
The programs provide federal payments for schools and other agencies in counties with huge tracts of tax-exempt federal lands. For instance, the federal government owns about 97 percent of the 1.8 million acres in Gila County.
Gila County has previously gotten about $3.2 million annually from the program.
Gosar’s letter said, “Western states like Arizona face unique challenges that other parts of the country are not required to withstand. These challenges are not a result of poor financial management but rather a result of the federal government owning massive swaths of land and not enforcing the rule of law. As Vice Chairman of the Western Caucus, I have a civic duty to hold the federal government accountable for promises made to states in the West and demand it provide adequate support for critical rural programs like PILT and SCAAP.”
Most of the federal land is concentrated in the West, which means many counties, schools and cities generate much less money from property taxes than they would if the land were privately owned.
“Local property and sales taxes typically fund county governments, allowing them to provide essential services like law enforcement, infrastructure and education needs. The inability for counties to collect local taxes on federal lands is particularly burdensome, especially when counties often provide critical services on these very lands,” wrote Gosar.
The federal government has for nearly 40 years provided the PILT payments to counties with a large percentage of federal lands. Gila County passes most of that money along to local school districts. Historically, the money Congress used for the PILT payments came from payments from logging and mining. But as logging dwindled, so did the payments. The payments amount to about 72 cents per acre.
This year, Congress didn’t fund the PILT payments at all.
Gosar also urged funding for SCAAP, which has long provided payments to counties to compensate for the costs they incur to help enforce immigration laws.
“By law, the federal government is responsible for immigration enforcement, including the incarceration of undocumented criminal offenders. When this is not possible, the law requires the federal government to compensate state and local governments for their incarceration costs. Compensation to local law enforcement agencies under SCAAP typically covers less than 18 percent of the actual cost of incarcerating undocumented criminal offenders. Further reducing federal SCAAP reimbursements is irresponsible and forces state and local law enforcement agencies to absorb a greater portion of the costs of a federal responsibility.”
Congressman Gosar also submitted a letter with Congressman Scott Tipton to the House Appropriations Committee and signed onto a bipartisan letter with 94 House colleagues calling on House leadership to allocate full-funding for PILT for Fiscal Year 2016.
Congressman Gosar led a bipartisan legislative effort and was joined by 47 of his House colleagues in seeking to ensure resources for SCAAP are maintained in the Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations Bill.”
Full Story Here.