Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) urged Secretary Ken Salazar to join him in support of counties and rural communities by reconsidering the Department of Interior’s (DOI) position that Federal Mineral Lease Districts are not autonomous from the counties.
Many Colorado counties have in the past received both payment-in-lieu-of-taxes funds (PILT) and federal mineral lease funds. In 2010 the DOI began subtracting federal mineral lease funds from the PILT payments counties receive. Earlier this year, Governor Hickenlooper signed into lawHB 11-1218 to allow counties to create an autonomous mechanism (Federal Mineral Lease Districts) to collect federal mineral lease funds due to the states that were otherwise being subtracted by the DOI from PILT funding due to the counties. Salazar previously communicated that the DOI failed to find these Federal Mineral Lease Districts sufficiently autonomous from the counties.
In his letter to Secretary Salazar, Tipton writes:
According to correspondence to Colorado Counties, Inc. dated October 19th, 2011, it was found that the newly created Federal Mineral Lease Districts did not, according to the Department’s interpretation, demonstrate sufficient autonomy from their respective counties to avoid triggering PILT reductions to those counties under PILT’s prior year payment provision.
While Colorado’s previous distribution method for these revenues included some direct payments to the counties, the Federal Mineral Lease Districts employ a district specific board of directors to determine disbursement of the funds. While the counties play an important role respecting these districts, the board of directors exercises a role separate from the county administration.
I therefore respectfully request that the Department of the Interior reexamine its interpretation that these districts operate as a direct funding mechanism for mineral leasing revenues to Colorado’s counties, and as such, are found to trigger reductions to PILT payments.
“PILT was created to bridge the revenue gap many Western counties face as the result of having large expanses of un-taxable federal lands. Local taxes cannot be collected on these areas, and yet counties that include federal lands are still expected to provide essential services such as law enforcement, infrastructure and education to the community,” Tipton said. “PILT is already historically underfunded and rural communities have felt a tighter budget crunch than many areas. I ask Secretary Salazar to join me in support of rural communities and reconsider the DOI’s position on augmenting counties’ PILT funds.”