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The federal government gave $17.9 million to economically struggling rural timber counties in the west for conservation projects, schools, roads, rescue operations and such. Now the federal government wants the money back. A letter of protest signed by more than 30 House members, including Democrats, said:
“For the administration to announce three months after the disbursement of these payments that they are subject to the sequester, and that states will receive a bill for repayment of funds already distributed to counties, appears to be an obvious attempt by President Obama’s Administration to make the sequester as painful as possible.” So on this issue the president has evidently succeeded.
Struggling counties will also have to repay funds from PILT, the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program, which compensates for revenues counties lose because they contain federal lands. The federal government is cutting those payments by 5.1 percent. In a classic example of bureaucratic buck-passing, an Interior Department mouthpiece said that “Interior was not afforded discretion to exempt PILT from the sequester.” The Department of Interior is also slashing $53 million in federal mineral royalty payments to Wyoming, a major coal producer. That likely stems from the president’s environmental agenda, which demonizes coal and those who mine it.
As it punishes struggling states and counties, the federal government stays busy spending money on massive new entitlements such as Obamacare and new federal agencies such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. The federal government also demands money back instead of making long overdue cuts such as: the pay of overpaid and overpensioned federal workers, useless departments such as the federal Department of Education, the elimination of Saturday mail delivery, and wasteful military hardware programs, among countless others.
As many people who vote for a living know, the federal government giveth. As economically struggling states and rural counties have learned, the federal government also taketh away. The latest grab-back suggests that the federal government is better at taking than giving.