Proposal could mean more state money for local government

If an idea circulating in the Pennsylvania General Assembly gains traction, the state could be paying more for public lands.

State Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) is soliciting support for an increase in the amount the state pays local government in lieu of property taxes for public land.

Causer’s measure would require amendment of the Forest Reserves Municipal Relief Law to increase the payments the state makes to local municipalities, school district and counties in lieu of property taxes. Under current law, the payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) the state pays are set at $3.60 per acre, which is divided among the taxing bodies where the land is located. Causer’s proposal would increase the payment to $5.40 per acre.

“The legislation would increase the payment in lieu of taxes paid to local municipalities, school districts and counties that host state land under the control of DCNR, the PA Game Commission and the PA Fish and Boat Commission,” Causer said in a co-sponsorship memorandum currently circulating. “Under current law the payment in lieu of taxes is $3.60 per acre divided equally among the three taxing bodies. Under my proposal the payment would be increased to $5.40 per acre and still be divided equally among the host municipalities. This legislation is important for areas of the commonwealth that have large tracts of state-owned land that are exempt from taxation and therefore have a significantly limited tax base.”

Accompanying legislation has not been introduced yet, but the move is already garnering support locally.

State Rep. Kathy Rapp is one of the measure’s supporters.

“When the state takes land for parks, game commission, fish commission and they’re receiving revenue, we have what we call payment in lieu of taxes,” Rapp said, “because that land is now not able to be developed, but the state is receiving revenue. So basically this payment in lieu of taxes is the state giving back to the communities and the counties revenue and so Rep. Causer saw this as an opportunity. I believe the payment in lieu of taxes right now is around $3.50, his bill takes it up to $5.”