The recent projections by the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) showing a $5.6 billion reserve at the end of 2014-15 was welcome news to the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC). RCRC has urged the State to include past due Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) payments in the 2014-15 Budget, and this report provides increased optimism that the State will honor its overdue obligations to California counties.
“This report, coupled with the Administration’s stated focus on paying down debt, provides our rural counties with hope that the State will honor its obligations,” said Nate Beason, RCRC incoming Chair and Nevada County Supervisor. “We look forward to receiving these long past due payments that are so critical to helping fund local programs, operations, and improvements.”
RCRC and its member counties have urged Governor Jerry Brown, collectively and independently, to honor the State’s legal and financial commitment to California counties as related to the DFW’s PILT obligations. Currently, the State owes 36 California counties more than $17 million in past due PILT payments, spanning more than a decade. RCRC is urging that the State include current and past due payments in the 2014-15 State budget, and resume annual PILT payments of approximately $1.5 million as legally obliged.
In response to the LAO’s report, 2014-15 Budget: California’s Fiscal Outlook, Michael Cohen, Director of the Department of Finance under Governor Brown, was quoted in a November 22, 2013 article from the California Taxpayers Association (Cal Tax) as saying, “we’re pleased that the Analyst’s report shares the Governor’s view that discipline remains the right course of action. The focus must continue to be on paying down the state’s accumulated budgetary debt…”
California PILT was established in 1949 to offset adverse impacts to county property tax revenues that result when the State acquires private property for wildlife management areas. Fish and Game Code Section 1504 specifies that when income is derived directly from real property acquired and operated by the State as wildlife management areas, the DFW shall pay annually to the county in which the property is located an amount equal to the county taxes levied upon the property at the time title was transferred to the State. The DFW has neglected to make annual PILT payments in more than a decade.