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HCR 08: $250,000 for Ken Ivory, again – 2021

Summary: HCR 08 would require the Federalism Committee to spend up to $250,000 to "pilot technologies" for a county payments study.

ICL's position: Oppose

Current Bill Status: Passed

Issue Areas: Public Lands

Official Legislative Site

Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls) introduced HCR 8 which would attempt to allocate $250,000 for a “pilot program” that would require the Idaho Legislature’s Federalism Committee to investigate the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.

The federal PILT program was established as part of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976 to offset the loss of property taxes as a result of federal land ownership. Because the program requires annual appropriations from Congress, counties have faced challenges from budget shutdowns and delayed funding. As counties have attempted to set their budgets, this situation creates obvious difficulties. ICL and others have worked to stabilize and support these payments.

HCR 8 is almost identical to a bill from the last session and is really about giving Idaho tax dollars to Ken Ivory, an avowed public-land seizure advocate. Former Utah state representative Ken Ivory retired in 2019 after directing a $700,000 contract from the committee he chaired to a company he then went to work for. Last year he pitched his proprietary software that could “estimate fair and equitable PILT payments.” According to Ivory, federal PILT payments should be based on the maximum “developable” value of the land—as though it had a multi-million $ mansion upon it—and that Idaho could plug in “whatever number it wanted” to maximize potential payments.

On the other hand, a 2018 analysis from the Idaho Association of Counties found that if Idaho counties were to assess property taxes on federal lands at ag and forestland values, we would actually receive $5.5 million less than we’re currently receiving from the federal government.

Another BIG problem is that the Idaho Constitution prohibits taxation of public lands, not just once, but twice (see Article VII, sec. 4 and Article XXI, sec. 19)!

Yet another reality is that the Idaho Congressional Delegation has worked hard to advocate for fully-funded and timely PILT payments, and demands from former-Utah Rep. Ivory are unlikely to have any effect.

Furthermore, the 2019 Idaho Legislature rejected the Federal Lands Council Bill because of concerns that it would allocate $10,000 to $15,000 to advocate for public land seizure.  How is it that a $250,000 pricetag would be acceptable?? To boot, the Federalism Committee’s charter expires on June 30, 2021, has rarely met during its 2 year existence, and hasn’t generated a single report or recommendation.

Idahoans cherish the many values our public lands provide, including hunting, fishing, recreation, and tourism, especially in rural counties where much of this land is located. We recognize that many counties struggle with the lack of certainty around county payments, which is why we’ve been supporting creative solutions that could stabilize and guarantee payments. We see that as a much more reasonable approach than simply demanding higher payments from the federal government.