GUEST OPINION: State needs to honor its debt to California’s counties
FROM THE NEWS-LEDGER — DEC 4, 2013 —
By Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada
and Yolo County Supervisor Matt Rexroad (Woodland)
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife owes 36 California counties collectively over $17 million in delinquent payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. For Yolo County, the share is nearly $1.4 million.
The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) program was established in 1949 to offset the loss in county property tax revenues resulting from state acquisition of private property for wildlife management areas. These payments were intended to help counties continue to provide vital services such as public safety, health care and roads construction and maintenance. In Yolo County, the state has not made a payment to offset its acquisition of property acquired primarily for the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area since 2000, thus leaving Yolo County programs and services to suffer.
The state has also not made payments to the No Man’s Fire Protection District that sits east of Davis. These payments would help support fire services. Instead, the cost has been borne solely by private landowners in the district. This is not the partnership that the County of Yolo expected. The failure of the state to adhere to state law and meet its end of the bargain discourages the primary intent of land conservation.
Now, the State of California wants to own or control even more property in Yolo County to address the environmental issues associated with the Delta. With over $17 million in delinquent monies currently owed to 36 counties, we are skeptical of the state’s future efforts in Yolo County.
Counties throughout California are doing everything they can to reduce expenses, tighten budgets and find funding for critical programs and services for their residents. We believe the State of California should recognize its payment-in-lieu-of-taxes obligation, pay past due monies and resume ongoing annual payments as the first step in building a better state-local government relationship.
We all have to pay our bills – the state shouldn’t get an exception on the backs of the counties.
Copyright News-Ledger 2013