Friday, October 3, 2008


On the same day the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $700B rescue package for Wall Street, Senator Jeff Bingaman reported that Congress has given final approval to a proposal to increase payments to New Mexico counties by tens of millions of dollars over the next four years.

The president is expected to sign the bill as soon as he receives it.

The proposal, which is contained in an economic recovery package, takes two significant steps for New Mexico: it expands and extends the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, increasing payments to New Mexico counties under the program next year from less than $2.4 million to about $21 million. That program supports counties that rely economically on national forest lands. The bill also fully funds the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates counties that have extensive federal land that cannot be a source of property taxes.

Bingaman worked with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and other key members of the Senate to develop and pass the proposal.

"I've been working to increase PILT and Secure Rural Schools funding for New Mexico for years," Bingaman said. "I'm certain this funding will be put to good use by communities across our state."

The proposal would provide about $2.1 billion through 2012 to fund counties with National Forest lands under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (commonly referred to as the "county payments" program). It is estimated that New Mexico would receive a total of more than $70 million during 2009-2012 under the program. New Mexico had received less than $2.4 million annually under the program, which expired in October of last year.

The proposal also ensures full-funding for PILT through 2012. Bingaman has sponsored legislation for several years that would make full funding for PILT mandatory. Because the federal formula leads to different funding levels each year, it is difficult to predict the exact amount New Mexico would receive. But full-funding for PILT would provide about a 35 percent increase in total funding for the program. New Mexico is one of the largest beneficiaries of the program, with thirty-two New Mexico counties receiving a total of nearly $22.5 million in PILT payments this year.

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