Chaves County may see a return of some $2.8 million in funding that it receives each year from the federal government to offset losses in property taxes for federal lands within its borders.
The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding was included in a massive, 1,000-page farm bill that includes money for crop insurance, higher rice and peanut subsidies for Southern farmers and the renewal of PILT payments for Western states.
The House of Representatives is expected to consider the legislation today. Passage of the $100 billion-a-year spending bill, that would still need support in the Senate, isn’t certain.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, announced the news about the possible PILT payment renewal Tuesday morning.
“A number of counties in New Mexico have been very concerned, and for good reason,” Udall said. “I’m happy to announce the farm bill will fund PILT for one more year. … I know that will be a relief to counties across New Mexico.”
New Mexico received $34 million through PILT last year. Udall said the news was “really good” for families with school children and all rural residents who need emergency services and road improvements.
Chaves County Commissioner James Duffey said though the bill was subject to change, it likely would not.
“It’s very good news,” Duffey said. “They got it fully funded. That is good news for Western states, including Chaves County.”
Without the money, the county faced a 1/12th shortfall in funding in the next fiscal year.
The county receives some $2.8 million in PILT funding every year. The payments are made annually for tax-exempt lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service, and for federal water projects and some military installations.
Funding for the PILT program has not been reauthorized for the fiscal year 2014.
Udall said he has pushed for long-term funding for PILT for many years and hoped to find a solution.
The farm bill also reinstates $4 billion in disaster assistance for livestock producers, Udall said. Disaster aid expired two years ago and was not extended. The bill would reinstate the program and make it retroactive for the last two years.
“This is very important for our producers, who have suffered and cut back their herds significantly in the drought,” Udall said.