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It's our birthrate and low taxes, stupids

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2010-02-25 -

Right now, literally, (audio , video) Rep. Christopher Herrod is arguing on the House floor that Utah was not admitted to the union (the United States) on an "equal footing" of the original states because Utah has more land owned by the federal government than other states. Is Herrod aware that Tooele County alone is bigger than three other states?

In short, some legislators want to take $3 million in education money and pass a law to seize federal lands--that's coal under them thar red rocks--under a new extension of the state's eminent domain powers. They know/admit this will trigger a lawsuit from the feds, that's why they need $3 million. I'd call it a gamble, but Herrod pretty much did so himself. "I am not a gambling man, but if someone were to say I could put a quarter in a machine and had a chance to get a billion dollars, I would put that quarter in."

Supporting the same measures, Republican Senate candidate Mike Lee was in the House Natural Resources committee this week talking about how its "offensive" that outsiders say Utah just has too many children and that's why our schools are underfunded (Utah ranks 51st for per pupil spending). That's offensive, Lee said, because the real problem is that the federal government owns so much of our state's land. New York, he said, is maybe only 1 percent owned by the feds, but Utah 70 percent! THAT'S NOT FAIR, he said, because clearly you need to "tap" lands to fund schools. There's no other way! That's not EQUAL FOOTING!

Well, Mike, Christopher, et al, try to stay with my (very simple) arithmetic/logic for a moment: even if you subtract 70 percent of Utah's square footage, our population density becomes about 107 people per square mile, barely more than Kentucky, but less than South Carolina, the 21st most dense state. Amazingly, New Jersey, the most dense state of all at more than 1,100 people per square mile, also spends more per pupil than 47 other states. Strange, huh? the state with the least amount of land to "tap" (per person) spends more on its students than almost all the other states. That's not equal footing, but they may it work.

Now what was that you were saying about having too many children? 

Update 2-25-10 4:37 p.m.: The vote was 57 yes, 13 no, to go forward with the seizure/lawsuit plan. Related bills now being discussed. 


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Posted // February 26,2010 at 11:58

These Republicans in the Legislature really have no clue about the history of ownership of the land that is now Utah. When the Mormons arrived, Utah was outside the borders of the United States, and was claimed as Mexican territory. It was previously the loosely defined Spanish territory of Alta California. The United States Federal Government fought war with Mexico in 1846. The treaty ending that war in 1848 ceded all of Utah, Nevada, California, and most of Arizona and New Mexico to the United States. It was Federal Territory at that point.

When Utah was admitted to the US in 1896, the Federal Government granted the State of Utah 4 square-mile sections out of every 36 square-mile Township. Today, those Trust Lands amount to about 3.5 million acres. The remainder of the land, which was not already privately held, remained Federal, and is now managed by the BLM, Forest Service, Park Service, etc.

Some members of the Legislature have this fantasy that Utah once belonged to the Mormons, or that all of the land within the borders should belong to the state of Utah. This was never the case. The Federal Government never recognized Brigham Young's "State of Deseret" territorial claim. The Federal Government didn't negotiate with the Mormons to acquire any land in Utah. The Government took the land from Mexico through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War.

Rep Herrod should be informed about one more fact. Utah was granted roughly 4 square miles out of every 36 that the Federal Government owned at the time of statehood. The states that were admitted later got much less. Arizona and New Mexico each got 2 square miles out of the Federal Government's 36.

These legislators who are calling for Utah to "take back" the Federal land need to realize that the state of Utah can't take back what it never owned in the first place.


Posted // February 25,2010 at 23:56

Unbelievable. Great arithmetic...why can't those who voted no on this retarded bill have explained it as well?

So glad I'm still paying Utah taxes but my kids will be spared the kick in the in Germany on the feds dime has its perks.


Posted // February 25,2010 at 23:18

There ya go Jesse...Confusin' them Retardicans with them things called facts! Underfunded education has always been a problem along with classroom crowding...and its always been because of the high birthrate...I remember several years ago the uh religious folks crying foul that people were talking shit about their religion and its tenets which mandate that they bring as many spirit babies into the world as possible.

There is no winning, logic, or even compromise with the religious right in this will always be someone else's fault!

Hey Utah....want some revenue? Legalize and tax cannabis!