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Funding California Rural Communities

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Funding California Rural Communities

Senator Mike McGuire: The state needs to step up and follow through and return PILT payments to rural counties

With a unanimous show of support in the Assembly Thursday, Senator Mike McGuire’s bill that will assist rural counties by again requiring the State to fund Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) reimbursements to counties will now head to Governor Brown’s desk for his signature.

In fact, support for the bill was so strong in the legislature that it was approved by all Senate committees, Assembly committees and both houses without receiving any votes in opposition.

PILT payments were established in 1949 to offset adverse impacts to county property tax revenues that result when the State acquires private property within a county for wildlife management areas. Currently, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife owes nearly $8 million in payments to California’s 36 rural counties and a change in 2015 to the Fish and Game Code makes it even easier for the state to continue to forego making these payments. 

“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 into the General Fund. Those dollars should have been going to rural counties and it’s time to give those counties their due.”

Holding back these payments to counties on the North Coast has had a detrimental impact on the counties and their bottom line. For example, in PILT payments alone, Del Norte is owed more than $220,000, Humboldt County is owed more than $160,000, Lake County is owed $93,000, Sonoma County is owed $116,000 and Marin County is owed over $150,000.

“This was an agreement made decades ago and the state has reneged on these payments for far too long,” Senator McGuire said. “Small communities and rural counties desperately need these dollars to keep our neighborhoods safe, fund local fire and emergency services and invest in crumbling roads and streets.

The legislation was supported by the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC). “On behalf of California’s rural counties, we appreciate the California Legislature’s approval of Senator McGuire’s Senate Bill 1188,” said Lee Adams, RCRC Immediate Past Chair and Sierra County Supervisor. “State PILT is a crucial source of public safety and health and welfare funding for counties, and ensuring this funding source continues simply honors the implicit state commitment that began more than six decades ago.  We are grateful for the Senator’s leadership on this issue, and we urge the Governor to sign this legislation.”

SB 1188 is a bi-partisan effort to make PILT payments to counties a requirement. It passed unanimously, 66-0, in the Assembly on Thursday. It will now head to Governor Brown’s desk for potential signature.