Must the State Pay Counties for Tax Revenues Lost When Wildlife Refuges Are Created?

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Press release from Rural County Representatives of California:

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) is sponsoring a measure to again require the State to make Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments to counties.  Senate Bill 1188 by Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) has 15 other authors and co-authors, and is a bi-partisan effort to amend Fish and Game Code language to make State PILT payments to counties a requirement.

Established in 1949 to offset adverse impacts to county property tax revenues that result when the State acquires private property for wildlife management areas, State PILT helps small and rural counties fund a variety of programs and services that benefit county residents.  In 2015, the final State Budget Package included language in the Fish and Game Code that changed “shall” to “may” to make future State PILT payments to California’s 36 PILT counties permissive.

This language change is significant as the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) already owes nearly $8 million in State PILT arrearages to California’s State PILT counties.  Despite the previous requirement in statute that the DFW make State PILT payments annually to the impacted counties, they have failed to do so until last year.

“State PILT is crucial to California’s counties, and over the last 15 years counties have struggled to tighten their budgets in order to fund programs and services for residents when the State stopped making payments,” said John Viegas, RCRC Chair and Glenn County Supervisor.  “This language change only makes it easier for the State to forego their obligation, further impacting programs and services to residents throughout the state.”

“The State needs to step up and follow through on a promise and advance Fish and Wildlife PILT payments to rural Counties,” Senator Mike McGuire said.  “Since 2001, California has been depositing millions of PILT dollars that should have been going to rural counties into the State General Fund and it’s time to give counties their due.”A detailed Q&A on California State PILT can be accessed here.  The full text of SB 1188 can be accessed here.

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6 comments

  • Of course they should (shall). Unfortunately, when it comes to money it’s a lot easier to promise than to pay when we’re broke. If they don’t pay, those lands should forfeited like what would happen to my house if I didn’t pay the taxes.

  • Yup, sounds like a job for “the gang who couldn’t shoot straight”! I’ll buy some extra cartridges so they can go to the range and practice!

  • Arrearages? Really? Could these be “back-taxes?” Or “unpaid debts?” The convoluted make-over of English has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime, especially in government speak! af

  • There’s a lot of language in there that’s hard to understand. Does this mean that the DFW owes money every year, for the property they have purchased? If it does, fair is fair. Pay up.
    To me I understand this PILT, to be payment in lue of taxes. Is this the same for all state properties? Is it fair that only one state agency pays for the property they own? Does the state parks pay land taxes on the property they own? There would be a lot of tax revenue if state Park had to pay PILT on the properties they own.

  • How does the local financial benefit of these lands being managed for public benefit get calculated into the equation? There are intangibles…habitat values for wildlife, usually migratory birds. There is revenue coming in for lodging , food, purchases by hunters. There’s permanent jobs created. Lands and waters purchased and managed by public agencies create significant local benefits in their localities.

  • How about the millions of dollars of irreversible damage created by the marijuana industry? The rich growers should pay the counties. When you look at the environmental damage to the forests and wildlife it far exceeds $8 million!

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