Supervisor Johnson Takes to Capitol Hill to Fight for PILT

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.

As U.S. is Poised to be Knocked Off as World’s Richest Economy, Federal Government Sits on Its Uranium

Lake Havasu City, AZ – New figures released by the World Bank’s International Comparison Program predict that by the end of 2014 the Chinese purchasing power will surpass that of America.  According to Supervisor Buster Johnson, the restrictions imposed by the federal government when it comes to access to mining of our natural resources is one of the main reasons the U.S. is poised to be knocked off as the world’s richest economy after holding the position for 142 years.  “In the northern strip area of Mohave County, the government created the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument closing off access to over 1 million acres of public land that could have been used for mining clean coal and natural gas reserves.  The federal government again in 2009 shut off more economic development for Mohave County taxpayers when they broke their 1984 agreement and shut us off from 28 billion dollars in economic development by restricting us from mining the richest deposits of uranium in the country,” Johnson explained.   According to the Comparison Program’s figures, based on 2011 prices, the purchasing power of the U.S. Yuan will surpass that of the U.S. dollar in 2014 despite China’s economy being just 60 percent the size of America’s at market exchange rates.  “Our nation is rich in natural resources which, if safely recovered, would not only employ our people and bring back prosperity but could make us self-reliant again.  Yet the federal government keeps putting up road blocks and dragging their feet on major projects, like the keystone pipeline, that if approved could bring economic growth to our country for years to come,” Supervisor Johnson stated.   Johnson has been questioning what the answer from our federal government is on the issue, and from what he sees it’s more regulations and taxes on the American people.  “Road infrastructure is in desperate need in this country.  The federal government’s answer to the problem is a bill that would allow all states to place toll booths on our former “free” ways,” Johnson explained.  “America was built on dreams becoming reality and on dreamers being rewarded for their hard effort.  By enforcing more restrictions and expenses on the American people, it is inevitable that other countries will surpass us in wealth,” Johnson ended. ###

Arizona Association of Counties Asks Feds for Funding of PILT

Phoenix, AZ – The Arizona Association of Counties (AACo) Board of Directors today adopted a resolution encouraging the federal government to honor its financial commitment to federal public land jurisdictions by fully funding the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. Congress recently adopted the Fiscal Year 2014 federal Omnibus Appropriations Bill and PILT funding was not included. For more than 30 years, the PILT program has compensated counties for the loss of tax revenue associated with certain federal lands. Federal lands are no longer subject to local property tax but are frequently serviced by county governments in the form of roads, emergency management, law enforcement, search and rescue, etc. It was expected that the FY 2014 appropriation would have contained nearly $500 million in federal PILT payments to the nation’s effected counties. This amount would have honored commitments in the current federal fiscal year. AACo staff this week spent time working with the National Association of Counties (NACo) in encouraging members of Congress to include full funding for PILT in the Farm Bill; the most viable remaining legislative vehicle to enact the appropriation. Key congressional leaders continued to negotiate the final components of the legislation and it is anticipated that the Farm Bill will soon be taken up by the full Congress in the coming weeks. To view a copy of AACo’s Resolution on PILT Payments, please click here: ###