Candidate says Utah lands are way to prosperity
Published: Friday, February 3, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 3, 2012 12:02
The U.S. is in big economic trouble, and the nation needs strong governors to reverse trends of irresponsible government spending, said Utah gubernatorial candidate Morgan Philpot in a campaign speech at the Logan Library on Feb. 1.
Philpot said if left unchecked, federal and state spending would lead to "European-style socialism" and financial ruin.
"You've heard we're the best-managed state in the nation. So what?" Philpot said. "So we're the third-to-the-last car on a train speeding toward a cliff, and we're excited because our car looks so orderly and nice."
Philpot, a Republican, served as a representative in the state Legislature from 2001-2004. Philpot ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 and lost to Democrat Jim Matheson.
Philpot said he and his staff considered another run for Congress, and they thought he had a good chance of winning the 2nd Congressional District.
After legislators failed to pass a balanced budget amendment in 2011, Philpot said he decided he could do more to help rein in government spending as governor.
"I could go back to Washington, D.C., and beat my head against a brick wall and probably accomplish nothing. Because D.C. is that broken," Philpot said.
Philpot said Utah needs a governor who is willing to stand up to the federal government and what he saw as unjust federal control of lands within the state. The state has billions of dollars in economic resources in the form of land assets, currently controlled by federal agencies, Philpot said.
"Lands are the key in Utah to getting back our economic prosperity," Philpot said.
The designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument prevented the start of "one of the purest, cleanest coal gassification projects in Southern Utah," projected to make $2 billion in state revenue, he said.
"It was taken away, just like that," he said. "One project — $2 billion. We have over a trillion in revenue sitting in these lands, that if we were able to control them and access them responsibly as a state, we could fund education … without having to worry about the outcry of 'no more money.'"
Philpot said 67 percent of Utah is controlled by the federal government.
"Our governors, in times past, have behaved like geographic-area administrators for the federal government," Philpot said. "They are not. We are a sovereign state. That is our land — stolen from us."
The school and institutional trust lands inside federally controlled land are not enough, Philpot said. Likewise, payments in lieu of taxes, or money the state receives from the federal government to offset the lost revenue a state might suffer because it can't collect taxes on federally controlled land are "a measly pittance of what we should be getting," he said.
In 2010, Gov. Gary Herbert signed House Bill 143, authorizing Utah to take control of federal land, according a The New York Times article.
Michael Lyons, interim head of the department of political science, said some members of the Utah Legislature believe a part of the legislation that allowed Utah to join the U.S. — the Enabling Act of 1894 — requires the federal government to dispose of lands it currently controls inside state boundaries.
"I just don't think that's an accurate reading of Section 9," Lyons said. "I think they're taking it out of context."
Lyons said the enabling act states even after Utah gained statehood, the federal government would continue to own a substantial amount of the land inside Utah boundaries.
"The national government owned this land as a territory prior to the creation of the state of Utah," Lyons said. "The Enabling Act delineates tracts of land formerly in national government control that are ceded to the state of Utah … then it says, ‘But all the other federal land is ours and Utah has no claim to it.'"