U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Steve Daines of Montana, both Democrats, have re-introduced legislation designed to make it easier for small counties with large percentages of federal land to reduce the federal match requirements.
Both pieces of legislation would increase access to a variety of grant programs operated by the federal government through the departments of Agriculture and Transportation.
The first of the two, entitled More Opportunities for Rural Economies, would define High Density Public Land Counties as those with more than 50 percent of their lands controlled by the federal government where the population is less than 100,000 — pretty much all of Nevada’s rural counties. In fact, numerous communities in rural Nevada are essentially landlocked by federal property and unable to grow.
They would be eligible for a reduced federal match as well as being prioritized for financial support from 14 or more federal grant programs.
“Many of Nevada’s small rural communities include large amounts of federal land, land that can’t generate tax revenue for them,” Cortez Masto said in a news release. “Those towns and counties have enough challenges without having to compete directly with jurisdictions funded by a large private sector tax base.”
Daines said Montana is in a similar situation and that the legislation would help improve access when competing for federal resources.
Cortez Masto said the legislation would level the playing field when they apply for critical infrastructure.
They said the bill is supported by the National Association of Counties as well as the Nevada Association of Counties.
At present, small, rural counties with large percentages of federal land receive some federal funding each year through the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program that compensates then through a formula. But PILT has never been fully funded by Congress and the money is directed to specific areas such as public safety.