By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming would launch an investigation into how the federal government pays fees for its land within the state under a measure awaiting Senate review.
The study proposed by Senate File 110 would evaluate federal payments in lieu of taxes, fees the federal government pays on public land that cannot be taxed by a state.
Former Utah Rep. Ken Ivory said the formula used to determine the payments has undervalued public land for several decades.
Ivory said when the PILT program was created in 1976, the federal government promised to make payments equal to property taxes that could have been collected on public land.
“Well, in 1976, they didn’t have the technology to figure out what that was,” he said. “So they came up with a subjective formula that was the number of acres, capped by the population and you had some counties that were getting about $1 per acre.”
The value of taxes on state or private property now ranges from $45 to $50 per acre, Ivory said.
Technology has advanced to the point the federal lands can be more accurately valued for the program, he said.
“Now there’s technology … to actually use real data, real time to determine the fair taxable value of that land to help the federal government begin to discuss honoring that promise they made,” he said.
The bill would require the Office of State Lands and Investments to conduct a study to more accurately assess the value of the land and determine the impact of decades of underpayment.
The bill must win the support of 20 members of the Senate to be considered during the Legislature’s budget session.