State’s delegates fighting for PILT

Tipton district has much to lose; Bennet taking county stories to D.C.

WASHINGTON – While in Colorado last week, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet emphasized the need to reinstate funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes, often called PILT payments.

PILT allocates federal funds to local governments that have large tracts of federal land in order to offset losses in property taxes. However, PILT funding was not included in the federal budget bill passed by Congress on Jan. 15.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, also is working to reinstate PILT funding. Earlier this month, Tipton voted against the budget bill, citing the need for PILT funding. The 3rd Congressional District, which Tipton represents, received $21 million of Colorado’s $32 million of PILT payments in 2013.

In a previous interview with The Cortez Journal, Tipton called the omission of PILT funding from the bill “a blatant disregard” of a very important Western issue.

“I don’t understand the mind-set on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “It is not a partisan issue.”

Bennet, D.-Colo., met with county commissioners and local officials on Jan. 20 and Jan. 24 to discuss the importance of PILT funding. He, along with other Western legislators including Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., are fighting to include PILT funding in the Farm Bill. Bennet serves on the Farm Bill Conference Committee, tasked with reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions.

“These are critical payments that the federal government owes to local Colorado communities,” Bennet said. “The fact that we even have to have this fight is evidence of the wide gap that exists between what happens in Washington and what folks actually deal with on the ground out here in Colorado. And it’s why we have to keep fighting to make sure this problem is fixed and Colorado voices are heard.”

Bennet and Udall met with a larger group of county commissioners in Denver on Friday, during their monthly meeting through Colorado Counties, Inc. Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said the senator wants to hear as many stories as he can about the importance of PILT funding, so he can make a stronger case in Washington.

PILT has been around since the 1970s and was included in the general budget up until 2008. Thereafter, it was passed for five years along with legislation for the Troubled Relief Asset Fund, and last year, it was included in the transportation bill.

Udall, along with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., introduced a bill to permanently reauthorize and fund the program Jan. 13. The bill was co-sponsored by Bennet.

Katie Fiegenbaum is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Cortez Journal. Reach her at kfiegenbaum@durangoherald.com.