Tester: Major investment headed to Montana’s rural communities

Payments in Lieu of Taxes invests in Montana, but House’s inaction threatens its future

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today said that rural Montana counties will soon be receiving help to improve schools, maintain roads, and support needed emergency services.

Tester announced that over $26 million will be distributed among Montana’s 56 counties as part of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) initiative.  PILT helps rural communities make up for tax revenue lost due to untaxable public lands.

Counties use the funding to hire teachers, keep road crews on the job, and support first responders like firefighters.  But Tester warned this will be the last PILT payment for Montana unless the House of Representatives passes the Senate Highway Bill.  The Senate Highway Bill reauthorizes the initiative before it expires in September.

“Rural communities will only get stronger if they have the ability to maintain quality schools and good infrastructure like safe roads,” Tester said.  “Without PILT, rural communities will be cut-off from the support they deserve.  That’s why the House needs to stop stalling and pass the Senate’s bipartisan highway bill before the plug gets pulled on rural Montana.”

The Senate reauthorized PILT – along with the similarly successful Secure Rural Schools (SRS) initiative – in March, but the House refuses to vote on the bill.

Tester and fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus also recently introduced a bipartisan plan supporting the two initiatives for five years.

PILT and SRS make up large portions of many county budgets in Montana.  Lincoln County Commissioner Marianne Roose noted in April that her county received $4.8 million in 2011 to offset the high percentage of her county’s land locked up as federal forest.

Payments in Lieu of Taxes is an Interior Department initiative.  Tester’s statement after the Senate passed the highway bill in March is available online HERE.