Utah’s Sen. Lee says he voted against PILT to save it
Farm bill • The senator explains votes as he answers questions from Utah legislators.
Published: February 20, 2014 10:01AM
Updated: February 19, 2014 10:50PM
Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah Senator Mike Lee speaks to the Utah House of Representatives, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee told Utah legislators Wednesday that he voted against the farm bill that funds federal payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) to counties in order to try to save it and make its funding more secure.

“We cannot allow PILT to become a game piece in a political game,” he told the House — which had asked him to explain his vote in his annual visit to the Legislature.

He said the threat of not funding PILT is used to push Westerners to pass the farm bill. Lee said that bill is only 20 percent about agriculture, and 80 percent about food stamps — and it did not contain reforms some sought, such as not paying people for not growing food on their land.

He said PILT should stand on its own, and not be included in the farm bill where it becomes a political pawn.

“PILT is extraordinarily important to the state of Utah,” he said, noting counties depend on it to provide services. But he said they receive only pennies on the dollar compared to what full taxes would be on the land. “This isn’t right in the first place.”

Lee also echoed a more bipartisan tone of speeches he has given in recent months. “It is time for us as Americans to come together,” he told the Utah Senate.

He also called for a better partnership with states. “We need to empower states to be the primary source of law in this country,” he said.