Utah Democrats and Republicans agree on a federal land issue… really.

Posted at 7:07 PM, Feb 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-22 21:07:36-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Are pigs flying? Are demons having a snowball fight in the underworld?

No, but something nearly as unlikely happened at Utah's State Capitol.

One of the truisms at the Utah Legislature is that Democrats and Republicans will never agree about the federal government's role in the management of public lands, but that changed when federal "Payments In Lieu of Taxes" were up for debate.

House Concurrent Resolution 19 calls for the federal government to increase its PILT payments to Utah's counties. The resolution is sponsored in the House by Republican Representative Ken Ivory of West Jordan, while in the Senate it's sponsored by Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis of Salt Lake City.

"In lieu, Mr Speaker, means just as good as. It means equivalent to," said Ivory, pointing out the federal government pays a tiny fraction of the amount of money the land would produce in tax revenue if it were privately owned.

"If the federal government wants to own it, they gotta stop being deadbeats when it comes to paying their fair share," said Dabakis after the Resolution sailed through the State Senate.

About two-thirds of Utah land is controlled by the federal government. Of that, about 33 million acres is considered when the federal government calculates PILT for counties in Utah. In 2017, payments came to $39.5 million. That's an average of $1.20 per acre for a year.