Senator Orrin Hatch (R) – Bill Issues April 2012
Please describe a bill or an issue you are working on that directly impacts Utah’s cities and towns.
Currently, 63 percent of all our land is owned by the federal government, which often makes unilateral decisions without bothering to talk or consult with state and local officials. As a result, we here in Utah know firsthand what is like to have limited access to and control over our roads, public access to recreation areas and natural resources that are vital to our Western way of life.
That is why I, along with Rep. Rob Bishop, am working with Utah Representatives Roger Barrus, Ken Ivory, and their colleagues in the Utah Legislature, as well as other stakeholders, to develop an initiative that will give Utahns more control of our state’s public lands. We know we can more responsibly manage our lands than Washington bureaucrats. Moreover, we know being stewards of our public lands will help improve our quality of life, as well as funding for public education in our state.
This is an outrage. It strikes at the heart of federalism, which is what our system of government is supposed to stand for – the sharing of power between national and state government.
But this is more than just an issue over access, control or federalism. It is about the fact that these federally controlled lands do not generate any state taxes, which is extremely harmful to our public education system that is funded by property taxes.
With state and local control, most of our public lands would be revenue generators we could tap to further our children’s educational advancement. By controlling our own public lands, we could finally do something about per pupil funding in Utah, which lags far behind that in most other states.
State lawmakers took a step in the right direction earlier this year by passing legislation calling for the transfer of federal land in Utah to the state. I applaud that effort and look forward to working with them to make that a reality.