Mohave County might call for more PILT funds from feds

August 1, 2018

Another court battle could be in Mohave County’s future.

Next week, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors will consider joining a class action suit brought against the federal government by Kane County, Utah, demanding repayment of taxes owed from mineral rights on state’s lands under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.

The action item of Payment in Lieu of Taxes is being brought forward by Supervisor Buster Johnson.

“I had brought this up at a previous meeting saying we should join the suit, but staff didn’t do it,” Johnson said. “I guess they were waiting for direction, so I’m bringing it back.”

If successful in the lawsuit, Mohave County’s share of the repayment for 2015-2017 shortages is estimated at nearly $93,000.

PILT eligibility is reserved for local governments – mostly rural counties – that contain non-taxable federal lands and provide vital services, such as public safety, housing, social services and transportation.

These jurisdictions provide significant support for national parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas. The funding stream is paid to local governments to offset losses in property taxes because of the nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries.

Last year, more than 1,900 local governments received $464.6 million in PILT money. Mohave County’s share was nearly $3.6 million.

In Washington, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, has taken up the fight for PILT, introducing a bill in Congress asking for full funding of the taxation program.

“We have pursued this issue non-stop,” Gosar said. The federal government, regarding our public lands, has made a contract in lieu of control made a commitment to states to provide taxes for the control. I don’t believe anyone should give pennies on the dollar when you promised a dollar.”

In Arizona, PILT funding can help sustain Gov. Doug Ducey’s commitment to maintain the 20 percent raise for teachers past 2020 and infrastructure needs, Gosar said.

Piggybacking on his bill for fully funding PILT, Gosar has introduced a bill that mimics former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s, D-Nevada, that allows Las Vegas, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to identify acreage that is landlocked to be offered up for sale.

“Harry designed a case that 50 percent of the proceeds goes back to the federal government, as it should, and 50 percent stays in the state,” Gosar said.

Of the state percentage, 15 percent goes to K-12 education, 15 percent to land grant universities, 10 percent to local governments and 10 percent to environmental conservation.

“This has generated almost $4 billion in the last decade,” Gosar said. “This is the law. If it’s good enough for Nevada, it should be good enough for Arizona.”

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