County officials from around the West are back in Washington D.C. this week for a familiar ritual. They’re asking Congress to reauthorize two programs that bring rural counties a lot of money.
Those are PILT, payment in lieu of taxes. That’s money the federal government allocates to counties with federal land within their borders. That federal land isn’t taxed by counties. And there’s the Secure Rural Schools program, which helps counties that contain national forest land pay for their schools.
Both programs are prized by rural county officials such as Scott Hutsell from eastern Washington’s Lincoln County. Every two years, he and his colleagues go back to lobby for funding for the programs. He says there’s always hope that Congress will make the programs permanent. This year, he says, there’s reason to be optimistic.
“Senator Wyden (Ron Wyden of Oregon) told us today that he’s actually introducing a bill for at least 10 years of PILT, at least go out 10 years. We would love that," Hutsell said. "What we’d really love to have is active forest management on the SRS side so we could get back to logging and having healthy forests and do those things like they’re doing up in Stevens County and get back to getting timber excise tax so we wouldn’t have to come to the federal government.”
Hutsell is part of a delegation from the National Association of Counties that’s in the nation’s capital this week.