Senator McGuire stands strong for rural California

McGuire re-introduces legislation to require the state to reimburse rural counties

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire, one of the only Democrats in the State Senate to represent a rural district, has seen first-hand how one-size-fits-all approaches to statewide issues negatively impact rural regions of California. 

He has successfully fought for rural set asides to be included in statewide programs that benefit rural counties and small communities and advocated for rural California to get their fair share of state grants and funding.

Last year, Senator Mike McGuire authored a bill that would have greatly benefitted rural counties by requiring the State to fund Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) reimbursements to counties. This bill was passed in both legislative houses without any votes in opposition, but still did not receive Governor Brown’s signature.

Senator McGuire has vowed to ensure rural counties receive this payment in perpetuity, so he reintroduced the bill for the 2017 legislative session.

“The State needs to step up and follow through on a promise and advance Fish and Wildlife PILT payments to rural counties,” Senator Mike McGuire said.  “Since 2001, California has been depositing millions of PILT dollars into the General Fund. Those dollars should have been going to help rural communities thrive and it’s time the State steps up and invests those PILT dollars locally.”

PILT payments were established in 1949 to offset adverse impacts to county property tax revenues that result when the State acquires private property within a county for wildlife management areas.

Currently, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife owes nearly $8 million in payments to California’s 36 rural counties and a change in 2015 to the Fish and Game Code makes it even easier for the state to forego making these payments.  

Holding back these payments to counties on the North Coast has had a detrimental impact on the counties and their bottom line. For example, in PILT payments alone, Del Norte is owed more than $220,000, Humboldt County is owed more than $160,000, Lake County is owed $93,000, Sonoma County is owed $116,000 and Marin County is owed over $150,000.

“Small communities and rural counties desperately need these dollars to keep our neighborhoods safe, fund local fire and emergency services and invest in crumbling roads and streets,” Senator McGuire said.

In a minor victory, in the Governor’s recommended budget, $644,000 in one time PILT funds will be distributed to rural counties in the 17-18 Fiscal Year. There remains a desperate need for ongoing funds which could be invested in keeping rural communities safe, fixing dilapidated roads and delivering healthcare services.

SB 58 is a bi-partisan effort to make PILT payments to counties a requirement and if passed, will take effect in 2018.