WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Mike Lee blasted the Agriculture Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill, as a “Beltway marriage of convenience between welfare and corporate welfare,” and criticized the use of PILT payments, critical funding for Utah’s small, rural communities, as a political football.
“This Farm Bill is a monument to every dysfunction Washington indulges to bend our politics and twist our economy to benefit itself at the expense of the American people,” said Sen. Lee. He added that the Farm Bill is “collusion between both parties against the American people; it benefits the special interests at the expense of the national interest.”
Lee outlined several offensive provisions included in the bill, such as sugar industry subsidies and the Christmas-tree tax, but reserved his greatest criticism for holding PILT payments hostage in order to facilitate passage of this deeply flawed legislation. Lee called it a “bullying, disenfranchising shake-down of the American west.”
“To compensate local governments for the tax revenue Washington unfairly denies them, Congress created – as only Congress could - the PILT program, which stands for Payment In Lieu of Taxes,” explained Lee. “Under PILT, Congress sends a few cents on the dollar out west every year to make up for lost property taxes. There is no guaranteed amount. Washington just sends what it feels like.”
“I have been on the phone with county commissioners for weeks, who feel they have no choice but to support a policy they know doesn’t work. This bill takes away their ability to plan and budget with certainty, and forces them to come back to Congress, hat in hand, every year. County Commissioners know this is no way to run a community. I share their frustration, and I applaud their commitment to their neighbors and communities.”
Lee argued the best way to help the small rural communities that depend on PILT payments is to make the program permanent, rather than forcing Congress to authorize it each year.
“I’m convinced that in the long run, the best way to protect these communities is to find a real, permanent solution that gives them the certainty and equality they deserve. My vote against the Farm Bill will be a vote to rescue Utahns from second-class citizenship, and local communities in my state from permanent dependence on the whims of faraway politicians.”