Senate Committee Passes Gardner-Backed Bills to Improve PILT, Extend Secure Rural Schools Program, Expand Yucca House National Monument
Energy and Natural Resources Committee approves Gardner legislation to protect Ancestral Pueblo cultural sites
Washington, D.C. – Today the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved three bills backed by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) to provide funding for critical services in counties with large amounts of federal land and protect Ancestral Pueblo cultural sites near the Yucca House National Monument. The Small County PILT Parity Act, S. 2108, would provide greater parity for small counties that receive Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding from the federal government. S. 430 would extend the Secure Rural School (SRS) program, which provides funding for critical services in counties with large amounts of tax-exempt forestlands.
“The PILT and SRS bills will improve the funding for essential services for counties with large amounts of tax-exempt federal lands,” said Senator Gardner. “I applaud the committee for approving these critical programs to support counties with a limited tax base because they have large amounts of federal land. These bills will make sure critical services like search and rescue, emergency medical services, law enforcement, schools, and maintenance of roads can continue.”
“Hinsdale County is in support of any effort to enact a PILT formula fix. Small counties are adversely affected by large federal land holdings. Such large land holdings make it impossible to have large population sizes. As a result, counties are now penalized by the current PILT formula that does not account enough for small population counties with large federal land holdings. Any efforts to rectify this situation is not only fair but the right thing to do for our citizens,” said Susan Thompson, Chair of the Hinsdale County Board of County Commissioners.
The Small County PILT Parity Act creates four new population tiers so eligible low population counties could receive a higher annual PILT payment. The current formula makes no distinction between counties that have 500 people or 4,999 people. The formula adjustment will help bring parity to counties with fewer than 5,000 people and help address rising costs for infrastructure and emergency services. In Fiscal Year 2019, 56 local governments in Colorado received a total of $40.9 million under the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.
The SRS legislation approved by the committee reauthorizes the program, which expired at the end of Fiscal Year 2018, through the end of 2020.
The committee also advanced Gardner’s legislation to expand and protect cultural sites near the Yucca House National Monument in southwest Colorado. A private landowner is seeking to donate 160 acres of land adjacent to the national monument to further protect archaeological sites and cultural resources, but a donation must be facilitated through an Act of Congress.
“Protecting Colorado’s public lands for future generations to cherish is one of my top priorities on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” said Senator Gardner. “The Yucca House National Monument is one of the most well-preserved ancient dwellings in the country. This bill will help preserve these Ancestral Pueblo sites and protect a piece of our state’s great history.”
The Yucca House National Monument was established in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson, following an initial donation of 9.6 acres by Henry Van Kleeck. The monument was further expanded by approximately 24 acres in 1996.
Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.