This week, a number of California’s county supervisors and RCRC’s Federal Affairs team joined the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) “Legislative Fly-in” to urge Congress to fund the federal Payment in lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley and Trinity County Supervisor Judy Morris, along with approximately 25 other elected county officials, converged upon Washington, D.C. to meet with House and Senate leaders, key committee leaders, their respective congressional delegations, and senior officials from the Departments of Agriculture and Interior in order to highlight to need to extend permanent funding for both Federal PILT and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs.
Late last year, federal PILT expired as a mandatory spending program, and counties’ last PILT payment was made earlier this year. Congress must now take action to reauthorize PILT, although it appears to be stalled as a number of thorny issues exist involving funding for the U.S. Department of Interior.
Although not included in the Continuing Resolution, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sounded optimistic about the future of PILT.
“It will be in the omnibus, I promise you that,” said Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “There’s bipartisan support over this.”
“Our mission, and I think that’s why you are here, is to get it extended permanently,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. “I’m confident we can do that.”
SRS expired on September 30, 2013 and has yet to be reauthorized. Participating counties received their 2013 payment in March of this year. Last year, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1526 - the “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act” – authored by Representative Doc Hastings (R-Washington), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. In short, that measure would make a number of forestry reforms associated with U.S. Forest Service lands, and include an extension of SRS payments to allow counties to transition to payments from active forest management. The measure has not been considered in the U.S. Senate.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is expected to introduce legislation to continue PILT and SRS, as well as other federal resource programs.
The RCRC Board of Directors will receive a full update on the status of these programs as well as other federal issues at the September 26, 2014 Board meeting in Squaw Valley.