For any voters in Congressional District One who are undecided as to whether to vote for incumbent Rick Renzi, or challenger Paul Babbitt, a few facts may be in order.
There is one over-riding economic factor in Gila County. That is, only 3 percent of the county is private land. The same problem exists, to a slightly lesser degree, in Apache, Navajo, Graham, Greenlee, and Coconino Counties. As you can see this economic problem is essentially a political problem.
A few years ago this high percentage of non-taxpaying land was not a great problem, because this land produced payment in lieu of taxes from the federal government from trees logged, grazing fees, and minerals produced. However, an unholy alliance has pretty much stopped all productive use of federally managed land.
This payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) money, was the major support of our county governments, and our K-12 schools. As the PILT money from the use of federally managed land has dried up, our county governments have had no choice, but to raise taxes on our homes and small businesses. Perhaps you have noticed this. As long as federally-managed land remains off-limits to commercial use, our taxes will continue to go up. There is no other source of revenue for our schools and county governments.
I mentioned the unholy alliance that engineered the closure of federally-managed lands to productive use. We each have our own suspicions as to who all the players are, but I think most of us can agree that a large measure of credit, for closing our national forests to productive uses, goes to certain environmental organizations.
Now if we are going to put our forests back to work and generate PILT money from them, so we don't have to pay all the taxes from our homes and small businesses, we are going to need lots of help from Washington.
Where are we most likely to get help? From Rick Renzi who has been a strong supporter of the Healthy Forest Initiative, the first step toward putting the forest back to work? Or from Paul Babbitt who, is supported by, and beholden to, the same environmental organizations who want to keep the forests closed to all commerce. Therefore, if you want to slow the present inexorable increase in property taxes you would be well-advised to vote for Rick Renzi.
Dan Adams, Payson