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