WASHINGTON, D.C. I The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which last year provided Colorado counties with $34.5 million to carry out vital services like fire and police protection, school construction, and road maintenance, received $372 million in the government funding bill, which passed Congress last week.
The bill, which provides funding for a majority of the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, also contains funding for Golden’s National Renewable Energy Lab, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the Forest Legacy Program, and the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program.
“While the Senate’s work to barely avert a government shutdown over the weekend is certainly nothing to be proud of, this bill contains some crucial funding for Colorado priorities,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said. “Resources for PILT will give Colorado communities a bit more certainty through the rest of the fiscal year to provide essential services like schools, fire protection, and road maintenance. Funding for the LWCF and the Forest Legacy program will help ensure crucial conservation projects can move forward. And EWP resources will be critical to watershed restoration projects to help minimize future flooding in areas that have been devastated by wildfires and previous floods.
“We’re disappointed the bill included several policy riders on matters unrelated to appropriations, particularly those affecting the Greater and Gunnison sage-grouse. Colorado communities continue to make a strong, science-based case that local conservation efforts are working, can continue to get better and these birds don’t need protection under the Endangered Species Act,” he said. “However, thanks to this rider, Colorado communities will now be plagued with uncertainty through at least next September. Despite this ill-advised Congressional involvement, Colorado communities and the agencies will continue to work on their collaborative and locally-based conservation approaches to protect the birds and avoid future listings.”
The bill includes $372 million for PILT, in addition to the $70 million included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Bennet has been a strong advocate for fully funding the PILT program as this bill will achieve for this year. He actively pushed essential Senate committees to prioritize PILT funding, and in 2012 he led the fight with Sen. Mark Udall in support of PILT and Secure Rural Schools funding. He also cosponsored a Udall bill to permanently fund and authorize the PILT program.
It also contains $306 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $53 million for the Forest Legacy Program. The Emergency Watershed Protection program was funded at $78.6 million.