One of the more important public debates coming over the near horizon is the debate over the obscurely named Apple Initiative.
This initiative would establish a multi-state consortium which would appeal to the United States Congress for more federal money for public education in the western states.
The appeal is to be based upon a clear demonstration that massive federal land ownership in the western states has reduced public revenues and this harms public education.
Despite deprecating, but intellectually weak rhetorical opposition from the usual suspects who consistently favor federal interests over state interests, this initiative is proper and overdue.
The initiative rests its case primarily upon three pillars: the non-taxability of federal lands, school trust land sections that are smothered amidst vast inaccessible federal tracts and therefore not available for economic production and an 1894 compact between the U.S. and the people of the Territory of Utah. The 1894 compact guaranteed the people of the Territory of Utah that their public schools would receive 5 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the public lands and that the lands shall, in fact, be sold.
As it has turned out, the U.S. has not sold the public lands in the state and no longer intends to. In my opinion, this is not only federal greed, but a breach of contract.
The loss to Utah public education is estimated at $836 million. In addition, the U.S. has overlain public lands with costly regulation and restriction. The public lands are no longer available for significant economic production.
Witness the denial of production in the Alton and Kaparowitz coal fields, the demise of the Utah logging industry and the attempt to commandeer and eliminate substantial portions of our local county road systems.
With some 67 percent of Utah being federal jurisdictional territory, it can be said that a substantial portion of the state economy and the majority of the rural economy is tied to the federal policy of the moment and not to free and open market forces.
I believe it is fair to say that the shortage of funding for Utah public education rests substantially upon the shoulders of the U.S.
If the U.S. wants to keep the majority of the state to itself and deny its resources and economic potentials to Utahns, then the people of the nation have a contractual obligation to pay for the privilege. It is immoral for the people of the U.S. to expect the state to forego a free market economy for their recreational and aesthetic benefits, then expect the cost to be born by Utahns and Utah school children.
The Apple Initiative can be improved upon and perhaps it will as understanding of the underlying issues improves. It is however a good start in the quest for justice for Utah and other western states.