Boxer’s bill would help counties |

Boxer’s bill would help counties

El Dorado County could be receiving a substantial increase in federal funding from the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program, if Sen. Barbara Boxer has her way.

Boxer announced on Tuesday that her Fiscal Year 2000 budget request for this program is $250 million – which is double what the Clinton administration had requested for California counties. This means that El Dorado County’s allocation would increase from $163,940 in fiscal year 1998 to about $320,000 in 2000.

Through the PILT Program, the federal government compensates counties that have publicly owned land. Because counties do not receive property tax revenue from these lands, the PILT Program provides a revenue source that helps counties provide public services.

“As a former County Supervisor (Marin County), I understand the importance of the PILT Program to California’s counties,” Boxer stated in a press release. “Particularly those who have a significant acreage of public land.”

U.S. Senators have the authority to request that the Appropriations Committee support funding for a limited number of projects.

It is an important issue in counties such as El Dorado, which has large tracts of public land – there are 438,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land alone in El Dorado County.

“The bottom line is that the president’s budget calls for only $125 million (for PILT), and Sen. Boxer wants to double that,” said Boxer’s Northern California director Tom Bohigian. “The federal government targets a certain amount of money for PILT every year, but the actual amount to get to that source is usually less. The senator wants to see a higher number of dollars go to the counties.”

Before PILT, rural counties used to receive federal funding through The 25 Percent Receipt Fund, in which a quarter of recreation and timber harvesting revenues went to the counties. But due to the reduction in timber harvesting over the past decade, counties began receiving less and less revenue from this plan, prompting the formation of PILT.

Not everyone is happy with the results.

“I think it’s the wrong way to go,” said Ray Nutting, the Second District supervisor from El Dorado County who is also the chairman of the Regional Council of Rural Counties.

“I believe that local interests should be connected to the land,” he said. “Our revenue sources should not be detached from what actually goes on in the county. I have an interim plan, which will soon be discussed, which emphasizes the concept of reinvesting locally for local impacts.”

Boxer’s office could not predict with certainty what will happen to the request once it gets to the Appropriations Committee in Congress.

“There’s no crystal ball to read it, but the fact that Sen. Boxer is behind it has to carry some weight,” Bohigian said. “This is important to quite a number of counties.”

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