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Let’s Fund Our Education System with Trust Land Returns Instead of Property Taxes

The lands contained within the state of Utah have shaped who we are as a people, and as I drive across this state with diverse landscapes and abundant resources, I believe we could be so much more. As someone who has seen his best friends killed as a consequence of federal overreach and control of our public lands, it surprises me that our state hasn’t done more to control the resources and lands within our borders. Until we do, Utah will never reach its full potential.

When I see magazine covers boasting that we’re the #1 state in the nation, I have to wonder what they mean by “state.” At best, we’re the #1 federally managed colony in the nation. Between the directors of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, two unelected administrators in Washington D.C. have more control over what happens on Utah land than the governor of our state. I’m running to be governor of this state, and as Governor, I intend to govern all of it.

Wyoming’s trust lands include a 640-acre parcel in the middle of a national park that is currently valued at $62.4 million dollars. Under the leadership of the current governor, Utah’s State Institutional Trust Lands Administration is proposing to trade 162,000 acres of trust lands within the Bears Ears National Monument. If the Bears Ears SITLA trade performs as well financially as the Grand Staircase trade did, we can expect the trade to bring in $28 million a year to our school system.

For reference, Governor Cox is proposing $855 million of new education spending in his proposed budget. SITLA was intended to be the primary funding source for our schools. It makes no sense that Wyoming’s SITLA lands located in the midst of federally protected areas are worth $100,000 an acre, and Utah’s SITLA lands are essentially worthless. If our SITLA land was valued as richly as Wyoming’s, the bare minimum we should be seeking in a land exchange with the federal government is $15.7 billion dollars.

Yet, our state leaders are satisfied with a few hundred million dollars for this exchange. If they trade off our SITLA lands for pennies on the dollar, there is no way we can go back and do this over again. This is a failure of leadership and an insult to Utah families who now must pay exorbitant property taxes to fund our education system because SITLA is failing to uphold its fiduciary responsibilities and fund our education system.

If SITLA negotiated Wyoming land values for its Bears Ears holdings and wisely invested the billions of dollars this land is worth, we would be able to fund our entire education system from just the investment returns within 20 years. At this point we could eliminate most property taxes.

Thanks so much!

Phil Lyman

P.S. In order to win this race, I’m continuing to build the financial resources of my campaign. If I can average 20 new donors a day, I can hit my goal.