WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced that the president has signed legislation that fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program (PILT) for 2015. New Mexico counties rely on PILT to provide services, including schools, roads, and public safety. Udall, a member of the Appropriations Committee, and Heinrich are strong advocates for the PILT program because of how important it is to New Mexico communities, and they have pushed hard to ensure funding would be available in the so-called "omnibus" appropriations bill, which funds federal government programs through September 2015, the end of the fiscal year.
Passage of the bill means individual counties will receive PILT payments, on schedule, in June. Last year, all but one of New Mexico's counties received funding through the program — a total of $37 million.
“The security of next year’s PILT funding is a relief for New Mexico's counties, because the PILT program helps provide New Mexicans in almost every county with critical services like police, fire protection, and education — contributing more than $37 million this year alone,” Udall said. “Our local governments rely on PILT to create jobs and pay for basic services, and that's why I pushed so hard as a member of the Appropriations Committee to secure these critical payments for next year. PILT is part of the federal government's obligation to local communities with large amounts of federal land, and I'll continue making the case in Congress for why we must fund it well into the future.”
"Our effort to restore funding for the PILT program is a major victory for rural New Mexico. Many communities throughout New Mexico rely on PILT funds to provide better schools, maintain infrastructure, and support thousands of local jobs," Heinrich said. "I will continue to seek pragmatic and long-term solutions to help maintain the economic strength of our rural communities."
PILT is administered through the Department of the Interior and compensates rural counties for hosting federal lands, which cannot be developed, including Bureau of Land Management land, national parks and forests and some military bases. Funding for each county is determined by a formula and is based on the number of acres of federal entitlement land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction.
Funding for PILT has been uncertain for several years, with Udall and Heinrich helping lead efforts to include it in bigger legislation — last year it was funded through the Farm Bill, and prior to that, PILT funding was included in a transportation bill. Because counties rely heavily on PILT, the senators are pushing for a more stable process, which would ensure full funding for several years at a time, so that counties can plan their budgets in advance.