- The APPLE Act bill is proposed by Rob Bishop and Sen. Hatch
- It will make federally-owned land available for development and taxes will go toward public education
- The bill is hoped to improve currently unavailable activities to Utah students
Utah congressman Rob Bishop and Sen. Orrin Hatch are introducing a bill to legislation making available federally-owned land for development. If the bill passes, the proceeds from the property tax would be put toward public education.
An estimated 1.6 million acres of land in Utah, as well as significant amounts in other western states, is owned by the federal government. If the Action Plan for Public Land and Education (APPLE) Act passes, much of this land would become available for development. The proposal would make five percent of Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands available to the states.
Congressman Bishop said each year the state of Utah relies on property tax revenues for school funding. Because states cannot tax acreage held by the federal government, public school systems have found a shortage in their resources. The Utah Republicans hope to address the issue by passing the APPLE Act.
“Due to the overwhelming presence of federal land in the state, there is a significant lack of tax revenue that could otherwise be generated if this land was not locked up by the feds,” Bishop said in a news release. “The better and long-term solution is to empower states to generate that revenue by giving them the lands the federal government promised in the first place, when western states joined the Union.”
With ownership of the land, revenue would directly benefit the youth of state of Utah in their education.
“This would be a significant source of revenue for Utah’s schools and a major step forward in ensuring our children continue to have a bright educational future,” said Sen. Hatch in a news release.
Bishop and Hatch said students should not have to suffer because of the descending economy and decisions made by the federal government.
“The education of our children should not be held hostage by the burdensome presence of federal land in our state,” Bishop said.
Larry Newton, finance director at Utah State Office of Education, said school districts are in a difficult position because of the recession.
“Beginning with the recession in 2008, public education has taken such a terrific hit and the students just keep coming,” Newton said. “It’s not like when the resources get smaller, you can scale back on your delivery.”
Newton said the failing economy has effected activities available to students.
“[School districts] have had to curtail field trips, charge for athletic event transportation and … increase class sizes,” he said.
Although the outcomes of this bill would be positive, not all Utahns are sure it will pass. Dave Hebertson, public relations manager at Utah Trust Lands, is hesitant to believe the solution will come to fruition.
“People are going to have to be convinced that the federal government has an obligation there that they haven’t fulfilled,” Hebertson said.