The Gila County supervisors heaved a huge sign of relief on Jan. 29 when Congress on a 251-166 vote approved the Farm Bill that includes money for the critical Payment in Lieu of Taxes program. Only three members of the state’s nine-member congressional delegation supported the bill that included federal payments to rural counties.
Ann Kirkpatrick, D, AZ-1; Ron Barber, D, AZ-2; and Kyrsten Sinema, D, AZ-9 all voted to approve the bill.
However, Paul Gosar, (R-Prescott) opposed the bill. Gosar’s District 4 includes all of Northern Gila County. Also voting against the budget bill were Arizona representatives Trent Franks (R-District 8) Raul M. Grijalva (D-District 3); Ed Pastor, (D-District 7); Matt Salmon (R-District 5) and David Schweikert (R-District 6).
Rep. Gosar said, “This is the second bill this month that was brought to the House floor for a vote less than 48 hours after it was introduced. At 959 pages, this bill is too long for anyone to read and digest in such a short time frame. This is a negative pattern that can’t become a habit. We must reverse this trend,” he said in a press release.
“In addition to the limited time we were given for review, I voted against the Farm Bill because it’s bad legislation. It continues the flawed practice of combining agricultural legislation with safety net programs like food stamps. These are two very different things that should be aired out and debated by the American people as separate issues. Moreover, the bill didn’t include a work requirement for SNAP benefits and most of the savings from the original House-passed Farm Bill evaporated in conference committee.
“Finally, the conference committee report stripped important House-passed language modifying certain livestock regulations, which will have an overall negative impact on Arizona’s livestock industry — a sizable component of Arizona’s economy.”
While Gosar called the bill “bad legislation,” the release concluded with, “The Farm Bill did include parts of Rep. Gosar’s Catastrophic Wildfire Bill, for which he is proud to see become law.”
Opposing the bill, the Arizona delegation went against joint and individual pleas of Arizona county leadership. Both the County Supervisors Association and the Arizona Association of Counties urged Congress to act.
Most recently, PILT provided $33 million to Arizona counties. Since 1976, PILT has provided money to help compensate county taxpayers for the costs of providing services on lands held by the federal government. PILT funding provides things like law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency services, road building and maintenance.
Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin said the PILT money goes into the county’s general fund.
The PILT money that goes to the counties is sometimes confused with funds that come to the county through the Secure Rural Schools program, which originally came from timber sales to also compensate school districts for the amount of federal land not on the property tax rolls.
Among Arizona’s 15 counties, the top four county PILT payments go to rural counties with smaller budgets and big needs. That includes Yuma County ($3.24 million), Mohave County ($3.24 million), Gila County ($3.20 million) and Yavapai County ($2.97 million). Among the hardest hit locales: Graham County, whose FY13 $2.6 million PILT payment represented 15 percent of the General Fund budget and Greenlee County, whose $783,000 payment represented more than 30 percent of the county’s budget.
Both Arizona senators John McCain and Jeff Flake have promised to support the bill in the senate.