Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), along with Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), today introduced the Small County PILT Parity Act. The bill would amend the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which provides annual payments to local governments with federal lands in Alaska and across the country, to make its formula more equitable for large boroughs with small populations.
Twelve boroughs or census areas in Alaska have populations under 5,000 and large tracts of federal land that are not subject to state or local taxation. If enacted, the minor adjustment to the PILT formula made by this bill would, over time, increase their annual program funding. The change in the formula would not impact the amount of funding received by communities with larger populations, such as Anchorage and Fairbanks.
"Boroughs, counties, and parishes with large amounts of federal land face real challenges in developing sustainable economies. In Alaska, the federal government controls over 60 percent of our lands, making PILT essential for community services," Senator Murkowski said. "Our bill will address an inequity and help ensure appropriate funding, especially for small, rural communities in Alaska that are surrounded by national parks, forests, or other federal lands."
"For Alaska's boroughs -- some of the largest counties in the nation -- this will be incredibly important to improve their ability to provide essential public safety and health services, not only for residents but for visitors to America's public lands," said Nils Andreassen, Executive Director of the Alaska Municipal League.
The PILT program provides annual payments to local governments, including counties, boroughs, and parishes across the United States that contain federal lands. These payments help offset the cost of maintaining a variety of community services such as construction of public schools and roads, firefighting and police protection, and search-and-rescue operations. Unlike private lands, federal lands are not subject to local taxes, often making it difficult for rural communities to budget for these essential services.
The Small County PILT Parity Act would modify the population values table in section 6902 of the PILT Act. Units of local government with populations under 5,000 would receive a higher annual limitation ceiling, which would offer the opportunity to receive higher PILT payments if those counties have eligible federal acres. Experts with the Congressional Research Service estimate this legislation could provide more than $580,000 in additional PILT funding to small boroughs in Alaska each year.
PILT payments for FY 2019, distributed in June, provided $30.9 million to Alaska communities. Through her role as chairman of the Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murkowski worked to secure over $514 million for the nationwide PILT program in FY 2019.