Monette represents Socorro County in Washington, D.C.

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Courtesy of Danny Monette: Socorro County Commissioner Danny Monette, second from left, poses with Senator Martin Heinrich, along with fellow county representatives Kevin King, a county supervisor from North Carolina (on left) and Lenore Stuart, a county commissioner from Arizona on the right.

Socorro County Commissioner Danny Monette was in Washington, D.C. last week to urge members of Congress and key Congressional staff to “keep their promise to counties and communities” and pass mandatory funding for the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program for fiscal year 2014 and beyond.

Socorro County Commissioner Danny Monette was in Washington, D.C. last week to urge members of Congress and key Congressional staff to “keep their promise to counties and communities” and pass mandatory funding for the payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program for fiscal year 2014 and beyond.

Monette was with a select group of county leaders from across the country, representing 25 counties in 13 states who participated in a series of meetings on Capitol Hill. The group visited more than 50 House and Senate offices in their two-day PILT fly-in, September 11 and 12.

“I had the privilege of visiting with Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich, as well as with other senators and members of Congress,” Monette said. “I am glad I was able to participate in this fly-in; it was a good trip.”

According to a press release from the National Association of Counties, the PILT program provides payments to counties and other local governments to offset losses in tax revenues due to the presence of substantial acreage of federal land in their jurisdictions. As federal land is not taxable by local governments, public land counties have struggled historically to provide adequate services to the public in light of the annual losses in tax revenue. In many counties, more than 50 percent of the land is owned by the federal government.

Socorro County consists of 4,432,640 acres of land. Of that, 2,318,458 (over half) is owned by the federal government. PILT paid Socorro County $985,000 last year, or about fifty cents on the dollar, compared to what regular tax payers pay. The PILT money makes up about 20 percent of the County’s general fund. That funding helps pay salaries, improve infrastructure, raise matching funds needed for grant funding for various projects, and provides general services. According to Monette, 32 of New Mexico’s 33 counties receive PILT funding.

“Both of our Senators understand PILT and the importance to our counties, and both want to make sure that the PILT payments continue,” Monette said of his visits. “The big question in Washington at this time is where to attach the apportions. PILT does not have a bill number at this time, so members in both the Senate and the House will need to decide where to attach it.”