Western Counties Urge Feds To Pay Up

September 19, 2014

pub land comment(Washington DC) If you don’t pay your property taxes for five years, the County can seize or sell your home. So if the federal government doesn’t pay its due for large tracts of public lands, Utah and other state local elected officials reason, counties should be able to take it over. That’s the argument from Sevier County Commission Chairman Gordon Topham, who joined fellow local officials in Washington this week to lobby Congress to fully fund a program that has doled out hundreds of millions of dollars since 1976 but is again, possibly on the chopping block.  The Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, program helps counties make up for non-taxable federal tracts by giving cash to local governments trying to pay for law enforcement, firefighting, search and rescue and even garbage collection. Utah counties received some $37 million this year from the program but Congress hasn’t included any more PILT cash for the coming fiscal year. Topham, whose county has nearly a million acres of public land, says that’s where he wants to treat the feds like deadbeat taxpayers. Counties, primarily those in the West, have been getting annual PILT payments, though sometimes later than expected, and the uncertainty with congressional approval has officials worried.

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