Bill calls on federal government to pay its fair share

Salt Lake City, Utah- (News4Utah) – An unlikely duo is teaming up on Utah's Capitol Hill to address federal lands in our state.

Representative Ken Ivory and Senator Jim Dabakis are about as far apart as you can get politically, but there is one thing bringing them together this legislative session.

“We both agree that Utah is deserved money by the federal government. That is, if you just treat the federal government like they are any other land owner, they should be paying taxes,” said Dabakis, (D) Salt Lake City.

Instead, the federal government has been making payments in lieu of taxes, or PILT since 1976.

They say it averages about $35 million a year, if it comes at all, and that's way short of fair market value.

“Initial estimates, it's somewhere in the area of $5 to $6 billion a year. I mean, Glen, imagine what that does for education, for mental health, for infrastructure if the federal government were simply paying the full, fair value of the land that they withhold,” said Ivory, (R) West Jordan.

House Bill 357 calls for just that. It will calculate what the federal government should pay based on taxes other land owners pay and demand they pay it.

“When 90% of your county is owned by the federal government you still have to run all the county services. How can you do that when they are paying 35 or 40 cents an acre on a PILT payment,” said Dabakis.

And that's something both sides are getting behind.

“Our children and our community shouldn't suffer, because the federal government decided they are going to do something far less than what the taxable value of the land would be,” said Ivory.

Ivory says the state has never calculated the true tax value of federal lands, so if the bill passes it would be a first.

The bill is waiting for a committee hearing.

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