House and Senate Democrats Discuss Public Lands Issues

Salt Lake City – House and Senate Democrats held a press conference today, responding to proposals by House Republicans on Utah public lands. Watch the video below!

Representative Joel Briscoe (D-25) pointed out today that the attempt by Republican Representatives Sumsion, Ivory, Herrod, Cox and Barrus to force the United States to relinquish title to lands they own within the state of Utah is “extremely concerning.”

“It has been pointed out by the legislature’s own attorneys and by constitutional scholars that this drive by Republicans to seize control of land owned by the United States may likely be unconstitutional, and the inevitable lawsuit is likely to fail, leaving Utah citizens out Millions in tax dollars which could have gone to vital help for citizens.” said Representative Joel Briscoe.

He continued, “Currently, Utah receives $1.7 Billion dollars a year in tourist revenue, ” but it is unlikely that much of that revenue would continue if Utah is allowed to drill on these lands, or sell them off to private corporations. “As Democrats, we place high value on the ability of our citizens to use their ATV’s, to go off-roading, horseback riding, hiking and camping. And we’re concerned about what would happen if the Utah Legislature had the power to sell off our open spaces to corporations who would fence them in.”

Senator Ben McAdams called the Republican proposals a “Bait and Switch.” Arguing that while Republicans are claiming that selling off public lands would fund education, it is highly unlikely that their bills would result in anything other than a decade-long lawsuit which would cost Utah millions in taxpayer money. “They said this morning [in the House Natural Resources Committee where the bills were heard] that these proposals could eliminate the Income Tax. Well if that’s their intention, then they aren’t even planning on putting any money into education anyway.”

Representative Brian King expressed concern that the Legislature is “wasting out time on this.” and that legislators are only “chasing mirages.” He says “the lawsuits [arising as a result of the legislation if the bills pass] would be expensive, not just time consuming, expensive. Chasing this dream of access to [United States-owned] lands instead of working out reasonable solutions for our neighborhood schools isn’t a good use of our time.”

House and Senate Democrats have already made sensible proposals this year in the Best Schools Initiative which would greatly increase the amount of funding for our neighborhood schools, without even raising taxes.

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