Washington, D.C. – Supervisor Buster Johnson was among nearly 30 elected officials from around the country who were asked by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to participate in their Washington D.C. Leadership Fly-In. As President of the Arizona Association of Counties (AACo), Supervisor Johnson represented all fifteen counties in Arizona when he met with congressional leaders and officials from the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to highlight the importance of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and what it means for Arizona counties. “Federal lands in Arizona make up roughly 42.1% of the state,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “Without PILT funding, Arizona counties would be forced to shift federal responsibilities to local tax payers or drastically cut essential services such as education, law enforcement, and road maintenance,” Johnson continued.
During the Fly-In, Supervisor Johnson and Supervisor Liz Archuleta from Coconino County met with some of Arizona’s Congressional delegation along with Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congressional leaders from Arkansas and Mississippi to give testimony and real life examples of why PILT is so important for Arizona. “Several counties, such as Greenlee County where PILT represents one-third of their general fund, require these funds to balance their budget. Without it they would essentially go bankrupt,” Johnson stated. Federal regulations require counties to provide services in the form of road maintenance, law enforcement and search and rescue on federal lands. “Because counties are not allowed to collect property taxes on these lands nor allowed to let private economic development occur, the PILT payments help counties offset those loses,” Johnson explained.
During fiscal year 2014, which is set to end September 30, Arizona counties received over $34 million in PILT revenue. Supervisor Johnson encouraged Congressional leaders during the fly-in to include a reauthorization for PILT in the 2015 Appropriation Bill, while at the same time expressed the need that a permanent funding source for PILT must be found. “Counties shouldn’t have to plead with Washington every year to ensure these funds are continued,” Johnson said. According to Johnson, Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon has proposed a plan to NACo to permanently fund PILT, but no legislation has been officially introduced.