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Utah Legislature Presses Feds To Pay Bigger Share For Public Lands

Julia Ritchey

Bipartisan measures aimed at making sure the state is getting its fair share from the federal government sailed through the Legislature this week.

About two-thirds of Utah’s land is owned by the federal government, and lawmakers don’t want taxpayers and school kids to be short-changed. On this, both Republicans and Democrats actually agree. The House and Senate have approved two measures affirming that stance.

One resolution co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Ken Ivory and Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis urges the government to compensate the state adequately on its land holdings. It’s done through a program called Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, established by Congress.

The second bill, H.B. 357, would determine how much money the state would get on the land were it not under federal control.

“If I don’t pay my taxes or you don’t pay your taxes, they’ll put your property up for sale. I just feel it’s been a long time since they’ve evaluated our properties. And it’s priceless properties — they’ve said so themselves,” said Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, a co-sponsor of H.B. 357.

Last year, Washington paid almost $40 million to Utah. Lawmakers say this amount pales in comparison to tax revenues that communities would otherwise be generating from that land.


Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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