WASHINGTON – Last night, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced an amendment to help local governments in Utah and other western states recover fair compensation from the federal government for its land ownership, by fully funding the Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILT) program. Senator Lee’s amendment (#750) was agreed to by the Senate, receiving 56 votes from his colleagues.
Watch Senator Lee’s floor speech on Amendment #750 here
See below for Sen. Lee’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“The federal government owns almost two-thirds of the land in Utah and almost half of the land in the 11 coterminous states west of the Continental Divide. But unlike other property owners, the federal government does not pay property taxes on the land that it owns in these states.
As a result, areas with high concentrations of federal land – like most of Utah – face budget shortfalls that affect the ability of local governments to fund their education, transportation, and infrastructure systems, as well as their emergency services.
To help compensate local governments for this loss of property tax revenue, the federal government created the PILT program – which stands for Payment In Lieu of Taxes – to provide funding to these affected jurisdictions. But this funding is woefully inadequate.
Historically, PILT payments tend to be a small fraction of what the state and local governments could generate through property taxes if they owned the land within their borders. This results in underfunded schools, infrastructure, and other community services.
To correct the damage caused by this unfair system, I’m offering an amendment that would allow the Budget Committee to make PILT payments roughly equivalent to the property tax revenue that state and local governments would be able to raise if they owned the land.
This amendment is essential to ensure that the citizens of Utah, and of the West generally, have the public services they deserve.