PILT check

Then-Interior Undersecretary David Bernhardt presents a check for federal tax dollars at a ceremony in Grand Junction in 2018.

Colorado’s U.S. senators, Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner, want to lock in a source of federal dollars for a decade to help communities carved up by public lands.

Those lands controlled by the federal government aren’t taxed, so the federal government cuts checks — tens of millions of dollars in Colorado each year — for a program called PILT, or payments in lieu of taxes, to those communities.

The PILT program has been around since 1976 and pumps tax money into about 1,900 counties in 49 states.

The government owns about 28% of the nation’s land, and about 62% of counties contain at least some federal public land, according to the National Association of Counties.

Bennet and Gardner are part of a coalition of Western senators who want to keep the program another 10 years.

Bennet said the money “is critical for communities across Colorado that use these funds for essential services like infrastructure maintenance and law enforcement.”

“This legislation is a common-sense step to reauthorize the program, so that we can continue to fully fund PILT and meet the needs of our counties,” he said.

“We will continue to work toward a long-term solution for PILT that will provide counties and local governments sustained funding and more predictability.”

Gardner said, “The PILT program is an important resource for many counties in Colorado and across the country with large amounts of nontaxable federal land. ...

“It’s important that Congress fully funds this program, which is used for critical services like law enforcement and infrastructure investments.”

Colorado scored more than $40 million from the program in 2018, including $235,000 for El Paso County, federal records show

Other senators who introduced the bill are Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Jim Risch, R-Idaho.

Contact Joey Bunch at joey.bunch@coloradopolitics.com or follow him on Twitter @joeybunch.

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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