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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.


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