Idaho’s 44 counties will receive a combined $35.8 million under a program intended to offset the loss of property taxes on federally managed land within the state, the Interior Department announced Thursday.
President Joe Biden in March signed an appropriations bill that included full funding of $549.4 million for Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, for 2022, with payments to states now finalized.
About 63% of Idaho is federally managed lands, and its PILT payment is the seventh-highest among states this year. California is receiving the most at about $59 million, followed by New Mexico and Utah at about $44 million each.
This year's Idaho PILT payment is an increase from the $34.5 million the state received last year.
“This program is an important example of the federal government’s commitment to continuing to be a good neighbor to the communities we serve," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. "The nearly $550 million being distributed will help local governments carry out vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations.”
The PILT payments are made annually by the Interior Department and its agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management. The payments also cover federal lands administered by the Forest Service and other agencies.
In Idaho, Elmore County is receiving the most at $2.7 million, with Cassia and Blaine County at roughly $2.5 million. The payments are calculated based on the number of acres of federal land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of those areas.
U.S. lawmakers have at times criticized the PILT program and its payments as insufficient or undependable.
Idaho lawmakers on the Federalism Committee, which deals with state sovereignty issues, last month hired a Utah company for $250,000 to appraise federal land in three counties to determine how much tax revenue the land would generate if it were privately owned and subject to property taxes.
The contract with Utah-based Aeon AI covers federal land in three of Idaho’s 44 counties — Boundary County in northern Idaho, Canyon County in southwestern Idaho and Clearwater County in north-central Idaho.
Some Idaho lawmakers have said that the state should get more than it has historically received from the PILT program. The results from the Aeon AI appraisal could bolster that argument.
Under this year's PILT payment, Boundary County is receiving $886,000, Canyon County $56,000 and Clearwater County $896,000.
The Idaho House and Senate last year passed a concurrent resolution approving the $250,000 and tasking the Federalism Committee with finding out how much money the federal public land would generate in property taxes if privately owned. Concurrent resolutions don’t need a signature from the governor. The resolution doesn’t say what the committee should do with the information after it has it.