PILT payment reforms approved by Senate

LANSING—Legislation to increase payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) to local governments for state-owned land within their boundaries was approved Tuesday by the Michigan Senate.

Senate Bills 1021 and 1022, sponsored by Sens. Tom Casperson and Darwin Booher, aim to address repetitive problems with PILT payments not being paid on time or in full. 

When the state purchases land, that land is removed from the local property tax rolls. To make up for the loss of this property tax revenue, the state is supposed to pay PILT or swamp taxes to the affected local units of government and school districts.

“Our local governments and schools count on these funds to maintain critical services and help provide a quality education,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “I sponsored this reform because it is time for the state to meet its obligation for the land it owns. Michigan residents are not allowed to pay only part of their taxes, and neither should the state. This will ensure schools and locals receive payments on time and in full, and will also ensure that the cost of owning property is fully taken into consideration as the state looks at buying more land.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns about 4.6 million acres of land, with the vast majority of that located in the Northern Lower Peninsula or Upper Peninsula. In addition, the federal government owns approximately 3.1 million acres.

“In total, about 20 percent of Michigan’s land base has been taken off the tax rolls,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Purchasing more and more land affects our communities. Education and local services are negatively impacted when land transfers ownership to the state because the state payments are significantly less than what would be paid by a private owner.

“Simply put, this legislation is about ensuring that our schools and local governments receive timely and fair compensation for property owned by the state.”

Among the changes in SBs 1021-1022 are: Increasing PILT payments for purchased lands by ensuring payments are based on current taxable values and current millage rates; increasing payments on tax-reverted land from $2 per acre to $4 per acre; forcing the state to make payments by Feb. 14 to locals that have submitted their information as required; and inserting a penalty on the state for not making payments on time, which would be identical to that assessed on landowners who do not pay property taxes.

The bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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PILT payment reforms approved by Senate

LANSING—Legislation to increase payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) to local governments for state-owned land within their boundaries was approved Tuesday by the Michigan Senate.

Senate Bills 1021 and 1022, sponsored by Sens. Tom Casperson and Darwin Booher, aim to address repetitive problems with PILT payments not being paid on time or in full. 

When the state purchases land, that land is removed from the local property tax rolls. To make up for the loss of this property tax revenue, the state is supposed to pay PILT or swamp taxes to the affected local units of government and school districts.

“Our local governments and schools count on these funds to maintain critical services and help provide a quality education,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “I sponsored this reform because it is time for the state to meet its obligation for the land it owns. Michigan residents are not allowed to pay only part of their taxes, and neither should the state. This will ensure schools and locals receive payments on time and in full, and will also ensure that the cost of owning property is fully taken into consideration as the state looks at buying more land.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns about 4.6 million acres of land, with the vast majority of that located in the Northern Lower Peninsula or Upper Peninsula. In addition, the federal government owns approximately 3.1 million acres.

“In total, about 20 percent of Michigan’s land base has been taken off the tax rolls,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Purchasing more and more land affects our communities. Education and local services are negatively impacted when land transfers ownership to the state because the state payments are significantly less than what would be paid by a private owner.

“Simply put, this legislation is about ensuring that our schools and local governments receive timely and fair compensation for property owned by the state.”

Among the changes in SBs 1021-1022 are: Increasing PILT payments for purchased lands by ensuring payments are based on current taxable values and current millage rates; increasing payments on tax-reverted land from $2 per acre to $4 per acre; forcing the state to make payments by Feb. 14 to locals that have submitted their information as required; and inserting a penalty on the state for not making payments on time, which would be identical to that assessed on landowners who do not pay property taxes.

The bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Booher, Johnson lead land access discussion with local officials

LANSING—State Sen. Darwin Booher and state Rep. Joel Johnson met with Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh and local officials in Harrison recently to discuss opening access to state land in five locations with blocked access.

Booher’s office was contacted by local resident Irvin Mann, who was concerned that the DNR had blocked access to the land. Mann, who attended Thursday’s meeting, is unable to walk into the areas by foot due to a disability.

“State land, which includes some of the most beautiful and picturesque areas Michigan has to offer, must be accessible to all our residents,” said Booher, R-Evart. “I am thankful to Irvin for bringing this problem of blocked access to my attention, and I commit to working to ensure these areas are open to everyone.”

The five blocked areas are all in Redding Township. They include two state forest two tracks, the “Huckleberry Trail” bridge over Whisky Creek, the “Thornapple Trail” bridge over Halford Creek, and an area located within a major wetland complex.

“Today’s meeting was productive and hopeful,” said Johnson, R-Clare. “Everyone understands the importance of opening these areas, and I am confident we will find a solution.”

The group also discussed the possibility of reopening the state forest campground located in the township. 

Also attending the meeting were Redding Township Trustee Sandy Mann, Redding Township Supervisor Tom Krchmar, Clare County Commissioner Jerry Burger, Clare County Road Commission Manager Ron Bushong and local DNR employees. 

Booher and Johnson plan to continue discussions with the department and local officials on the issue. 

Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph is available by visiting Sen. Booher’s website at: www.SenatorDarwinBooher.com. Click on the Photowire tab.

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Booher, Johnson lead land access discussion with local officials

LANSING—State Sen. Darwin Booher and state Rep. Joel Johnson met with Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh and local officials in Harrison recently to discuss opening access to state land in five locations with blocked access.

Booher’s office was contacted by local resident Irvin Mann, who was concerned that the DNR had blocked access to the land. Mann, who attended Thursday’s meeting, is unable to walk into the areas by foot due to a disability.

“State land, which includes some of the most beautiful and picturesque areas Michigan has to offer, must be accessible to all our residents,” said Booher, R-Evart. “I am thankful to Irvin for bringing this problem of blocked access to my attention, and I commit to working to ensure these areas are open to everyone.”

The five blocked areas are all in Redding Township. They include two state forest two tracks, the “Huckleberry Trail” bridge over Whisky Creek, the “Thornapple Trail” bridge over Halford Creek, and an area located within a major wetland complex.

“Today’s meeting was productive and hopeful,” said Johnson, R-Clare. “Everyone understands the importance of opening these areas, and I am confident we will find a solution.”

The group also discussed the possibility of reopening the state forest campground located in the township. 

Also attending the meeting were Redding Township Trustee Sandy Mann, Redding Township Supervisor Tom Krchmar, Clare County Commissioner Jerry Burger, Clare County Road Commission Manager Ron Bushong and local DNR employees. 

Booher and Johnson plan to continue discussions with the department and local officials on the issue. 

Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph is available by visiting Sen. Booher’s website at: www.SenatorDarwinBooher.com. Click on the Photowire tab.

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Booher, Franz lead discussion about dredging in Portage Lake

LANSING—Sen. Darwin Booher and Rep. Ray Franz met with Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh and local officials on Thursday in Onekama to discuss the urgent need for dredging in Portage Lake.

“Sandbars and low water levels are combining to turn Portage Lake Harbor into a hazard for boaters – putting millions in economic activity at risk,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Sustaining a healthy harbor is important on several fronts, including supporting local jobs and ensuring recreational access to Michigan’s great lakes. I want to thank Director Creagh for coming up to Onekama to hear from local leaders about this serious issue.”

Franz has sponsored House Resolution 325 and House Concurrent Resolution 62, calling upon Congress to use funds from the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund’s $5 billion surplus for dredging and maintenance work at 15 ‘harbor of refuge’ facilities in Michigan. Congress established a federal harbor maintenance tax on shippers to fund harbor operations and maintenance at U.S. ports.

“Roughly $1.5 billion in maintenance taxes was collected from shippers last year, but the critical dredging needs of Great Lakes harbors have not been met,” said Franz, R-Onekama. “It is only common sense that the fund’s surplus funding be used as intended – to manage and maintain this important infrastructure for Great Lakes shipping and boating traffic.

“This is about marine safety and the economy. Without a safe passage into the harbor, this area could lose hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars.”

Portage Lake Harbor Commission Chairman Jim Mrozinksi attended the meeting. Mrozinksi said that sandbars, erosions and low water levels have turned the port into a dangerous entrance for residents and Lake Michigan boaters, and that without a clear passage through the channel, 200 jobs and $3 million in revenue could be lost and property values could drop by 35 percent.

Franz’ resolutions were adopted by the House of Representatives in September.

Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph of Booher and Franz at Portage Lake is available by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorDarwinBooher.com. Click on the Photowire tab.

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Booher, Rendon lead swimmer’s itch discussion with state, local officials

LANSING—Sen. Darwin Booher, Rep. Bruce Rendon and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh met with local officials in Roscommon on Thursday to discuss what actions can be taken to address the problem of swimmer’s itch in Higgins Lake.

“Swimmer’s itch is a significant problem, with more frequent outbreaks in Higgins Lake already affecting the area’s economy,” said Booher, R-Evart. “The lake offers numerous recreational opportunities for residents and summer tourists to enjoy, and many small businesses rely on repeat visitors for their livelihood. I thank Director Creagh for talking with local officials about the seriousness of the problem and what can be done to bring outbreaks under control.”

Swimmer’s itch is a dermatitis that develops on parts of the body that have been exposed to lake water containing certain larval forms of flatworms. Reddened spots form on the body within hours after exposure and may itch intensely for several days before subsiding. After a week, the symptoms usually disappear. In severe cases, a person can develop a fever, become nauseated and spend several sleepless nights suffering from intense itching.

It is widely scattered throughout Michigan, with major outbreaks occurring on larger recreational lakes in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula. Nearly every lake in Michigan has the potential to support the snails and birds that host the parasites that cause swimmer’s itch.

“Northern Michigan residents enjoy and take pride in our outstanding natural resources, especially beautiful lakes like Higgins Lake that offer wide-ranging fun for the entire family,” said Rendon, R-Lake City. “While eliminating swimmer’s itch in our lakes is difficult, we must find a cost-effective way to do so.

“Every resident can help reduce the risk of exposure by not feeding the birds on the lakeshore and participating in one of the fall waterfowl hunting seasons. Hunting allows a resident to enjoy the outdoors and – at the same time – help protect our families and tourism economy by reducing the waterfowl that carry the parasite.”

Residents may learn more about swimmer’s itch by visiting www.swimmersitch.org. The site includes valuable information about causes and tips on prevention.

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