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GOP hopefuls seek 'rent' on U.S. lands

Republicans running for governor and Congress want the feds to pay more than a hundred million dollars in annual "rent" on untaxable federal lands — and make their check out to Utah public schools.

Basically, they're pushing the APPLE initiative, unveiled by House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, and Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, two years ago.

APPLE, or the Action Plan for Public Lands and Education, hasn't made much progress in Washington. But, the candidates say, the issue is just beginning to ripen.

"We think (congressional colleagues) have ruminated long enough," Rep. Rob Bishop, running for re-election in Utah's 1st Congressional District, said in a Monday press conference.

APPLE comes from a study showing Western states fall behind Eastern ones in education spending. Per-pupil spending growth in the East is more than double what it is in the West, leading to higher class sizes, according to the candidates' presentation.

The initiative fingers federal lands as the culprit. No Eastern state has more than 14 percent of its lands federally owned. But at least 27 percent of Western states' land is federally owned.

Two-thirds of Utah is federal land.