The recently unveiled budget from the Trump Administration shows massive cuts to many programs, especially those that benefit rural Nevada.
One such cut has been proposed with PILT money or Payment in Lieu of Taxes; but President Trump is not the first leader to recommend the U.S. government stop paying the states PILT money. His predecessor Barack Obama had the same idea until Congress forced him to back off.
So, what is PILT? PILT is paid to counties to compensate them for the loss of tax revenue due to federal land ownership. The formula used to compute the payments is based on population levels, receipt sharing payments and the amount of federal land within an affected county.
Those states, primarily western states, are impacted because they cannot collect taxes on federal lands like they can for private lands.
We never agreed with retired Nevada Sen. Harry Reid on much of anything. PILT funding was one of those items:
“PILT funding has a remarkable impact for Nevada counties,” Reid said several years ago. “Over 85 percent of the land in Nevada is owned by the federal government, making it essential that Nevada receive its fair share.”
Every one of Nevada’s congressional representatives fought for the federal government to continue its PILT funding. Likewise, Gov. Brian Sandoval said the federal government was “fulfilling its obligation to compensate local communities for the land owned by the federal government in Nevada.”
Nevada received $25,632,826 in 2016 under the PILT program. To equate PILT is to say the government is paying property tax so that school districts educating children of federal employees, for example, receive their per pupil allotment.
Within Nevada, Elko received the largest amount of any county — $3,485,682 — followed by Washoe County at $3,470,890. Churchill County received a little more than $2 million. Several rural counties have 95 percent of their land tied up as federal property.
With the proposed Navy expansion, Churchill County has expressed concerns with PILT money and says the Navy should analyze how the PILT will be affected by any of its proposed alternatives.
For Presidents Obama and now Trump to cut PILT funding, we say no. This is a case of the federal government taking advantage of the states to provide service without just compensation. We say no to the federal government wanting to take a free ride and shirk its responsibilities. Proposals like these make us shake our head wondering why the feds continually want to shaft the little guys. No wonder many Westerners — and especially Nevadans — want the federal government to take a hike.
PILT is not a gratuitous handout from the federal government; in fact, if the federal government wants to do businesses with the states that expect reimbursement for services, then pay up and don’t be East Coast slackers.
LVN Editorials appear on Wednesdays.