The Bush Administration has turned its back on Gila County and decided that local homeowners should pickup the tab for federal land within our borders. In recent testimony before Congress, the Bush Administration made it clear that it refuses to take responsibility for the nation's public lands by proposing deep cuts in the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and refusing even to consider a bill (S. 454) to fully fund the program permanently.
The PILT program compensates counties for lost revenues due to the presence of tax-exempt federal land. The funds offset costs incurred by Gila County for services provided to federal employees and families, and to the users of the public lands. These include education, solid waste disposal, law enforcement, search and rescue, health care, environmental compliances, fire fighting and fire patrolling, parks and recreation, water, additional road maintenance and signage.
Even at full funding, PILT would yield only pennies on the dollar compared to what the land would yield were it privately owned and on the tax rolls. The Administration should be ashamed at this attempt to rob local budgets of these much-needed funds. The money to support public services on America's public lands must come from somewhere, and the Administration thinks Gila County residents should pay for it.
Ronald A. Christensen, Vice-Chairman, Gila County Board of Supervisors, Chairman, Public Lands, NACo