Will Government Give Away Huge Tract of Federal Land for Free?

Taxpayers for Common Sense is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending. Here is their latest news update.

THE GREAT ALASKA GIVEAWAY In the next few weeks, the Senate may consider legislation that would give away up to 500,000 acres of federal land rich in timber and oil assets to the University of Alaska.

The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK), would allow the university to choose from lands in both the Tongass and Chugach National Forests, as well as land in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR) that could extend to valuable offshore federal petroleum assets.

Sen. Murkowski won approval to bring the land grant legislation to the Senate floor with a guarantee that debate on the controversial measure be limited to just four hours.

State government support for the university has been on a steady decline since 1985, creating a $94 million revenue shortfall that the university hopes to recoup by developing the land it would receive under Murkowski's legislation.

But passage of this bill would give University of Alaska billions in potential revenue that currently goes to the federal government. The Department of the Interior estimated in 1998 that, should these revenue-generating lands be ceded to the State of Alaska, taxpayers could lose $4.8 billion in petroleum revenues alone.

Supporters of the bill claim that, because Alaska was not a state at the time of the passage of the Morrill Act, the university did not receive enough land under the original higher education land giveaway law. Thus, they argue, that the university should receive more land now.

But the University of Alaska received almost twice the amount of land claimable under the land grant law in three separate grants and now owns over 83,000 acres more than the amount allowed by the Morrill Act.

Even if the federal government doesn't owe the university more land, the president of the University of Alaska claims that he needs more federal support because the university is playing a growing role in federal research.

But some wonder if the university needs the land at all. Alaska has no income tax and no sales tax and holds $26 billion in its permanent fund that this year paid a $1,770 dividend to every man, woman and child in the state of Alaska.

The state of Alaska and its university should not be allowed to take this land without paying a dime back to Federal taxpayers. Federal taxpayers should not get short shrift for a needless land giveaway.


For more information, e-mail or phone Cena Swisher at 202-546-8500 ext. 108 ; TCS is at

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