For Immediate Release
February 23, 2018
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
Bipartisan legislation calling on the federal government to honor its promise unanimously passes the House and Senate
SALT LAKE CITY – HCR 19, Regarding the Impact of Federal Lands on the State Education System, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory and Senator Jim Dabakis, and HB 357, Evaluating Tax Revenue Foregone from Federally Controlled Lands unanimously passed the House and the Senate on February 22, 2018.
“There is not a lot that Senator Dabakis and I agree on, but we do agree that our kids and communities should not be disadvantaged by our federal partner not keeping its promise,” said Rep. Ivory, House sponsor of HCR 19 and HB 357. “Specifically, the federal government promised to compensate our schools and communities for the lost tax revenue from federal control of our lands.”
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 changed federal land policy from one of disposal to a policy of retention. This policy change deprives schools and communities of tax revenues from more than 66 percent of Utah’s land. Recognizing the substantial burden placed on local government to fund education and other essential government services; Congress established the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program as a substitute for lost tax revenue.
“This is an area where all Utahns can unite,” said Sen. Dabakis, Senate sponsor of HCR 19. “As Utah’s biggest landowner, the federal government must not be a deadbeat. The feds must pay their fair share to Utah cities, towns and school children.”
“In lieu” is defined as a substitute that is just as good as, or of equal value to, what was given up. However, by any objective measure, federal PILT payments are not “just as good as” the tax revenue the state and local communities would otherwise generate.
In actuality, PILT payments are little more than pennies in lieu of taxes. It amounts to a federal government tax break on the backs of Utah’s children and communities to the tune of hundreds of millions, and even billions, of dollars each year.
HCR 19, urges the federal government to pay the full amount of the denied tax revenue, as long as it withholds our lands.
School districts, municipalities and counties with only a small fraction of taxable land struggle to provide essential government services. The problem is compounded as young families have to leave tax-starved rural counties due to restricted education funding and reduced employment opportunities. This disparity will be largely alleviated when the federal government fully honors its PILT promise to Utah’s schools and communities.
HB 357 authorizes the Commission on Federalism to determine what the reasonable property tax would be but for federal control of our lands. The Commission will then coordinate with the state’s federal delegation to secure the full payment in lieu of taxes. The purpose of this bill is merely to make Utah’s counties, municipalities and school districts whole from lost tax revenue, as the federal government promised to do when it decided in 1976 to retain more than 66 percent of Utah’s lands.