SENATE BILL REPORT
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.
As Reported by Senate Committee On:
Natural Resources & Parks, February 19, 2015
Title: An act relating to payments to counties in lieu of property taxes by the department of fish and wildlife.
Brief Description: Regarding payments to counties in lieu of property taxes by the department of fish and wildlife.
Sponsors: Senators Parlette, Dansel, Hatfield, Rolfes and Warnick.
Committee Activity: Natural Resources & Parks: 2/11/15, 2/19/15 [DP-WM].
SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES & PARKS
Majority Report: Do pass and be referred to Committee on Ways & Means.
Signed by Senators Pearson, Chair; Dansel, Vice Chair; Hatfield, Ranking Minority Member; Chase, Hewitt, McAuliffe and Warnick.
Staff: Curt Gavigan (786-7437)
Background: Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) Lands. DFW manages approximately 900,000 acres of conservation and recreation lands which are divided into more than 30 wildlife areas. Additionally, the agency manages approximately 700 water access sites, which are usually one to five acres in size.
DFW Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). PILT refers to payments made in lieu of local property taxes. Property tax generally does not apply to property owned by state agencies. However, DFW pays PILT to counties that have elected to receive it under a specific statutory scheme.
For the 2011-13 and 2013-15 fiscal biennia, the Legislature fixed the amount of PILT paid to each county based on the PILT received in 2009. Prior to 2012, counties chose one of the following two formulas to calculate DFW PILT payments:
the tax that would be due if the property were taxed as open space land; or
the greater of either $0.70 per acre or the PILT amount paid in 1984. This choice requires that PILT was received in 1984.
Lands included in the DFW PILT calculation include all tracts, regardless of acreage, used for wildlife habitat and public recreational purposes. Department buildings, structures, facilities, game farms, fish hatcheries, water access sites, tidelands, and public fishing areas are not included.
If a county elects to receive PILT, it must track the amount of fees, fines, and forfeitures received from fish and game violations and send an equal amount to the State Treasurer for deposit into the general fund. This requirement does not apply while the PILT payment remains frozen at the 2009 level.
Summary of Bill: Beginning August 1, 2015, DFW must calculate PILT payments for counties based on the land's open space value.
Additionally, counties may receive PILT payments while also keeping fees, fines, and forfeitures from fish and game violations.
Fiscal Note: Available.
Committee/Commission/Task Force Created: No.
Effective Date: The bill takes effect on August 1, 2015.
Staff Summary of Public Testimony: PRO: PILT payments help offset the cost of public landownership. We are committed to full, fair PILT for counties, which is why we support the bill. It is an important step to ensure counties are compensated fairly for supporting the benefits that public lands provide. Several counties are more directly impacted by large percentages of public land acreage. The counties where PILT payments are largest are some of the counties in the state that can least afford lower PILT payments or payments that are reduced by the Legislature over time.
Persons Testifying: PRO: Senator Parlette, prime sponsor; Joe Mentor, WA Wildlife & Recreation Coalition; Jack Field, Bill Sieverkropp, WA Cattlemen’s Assn.; Hannah Clark, WA Assn. of Land Trusts; Terry Kohl, Backcountry Horsemen of WA; Tom Davis, WA Farm Bureau; Scott Richards, The Nature Conservancy.