I picked some up in Boise, which will mean more discussion will be needed at the Reagan Summit on the manner of transferring federal lands to the states. Speaker Scott Bedke explained to me that while 63% of their land belongs to the feds, it is so mismanaged that they spend as much as $200 million a year fighting fires on it. Idaho manages, correctly, two million acres of its own. Because it is properly managed, very little is needed for fire suppression. Idaho will want its land gradually, so that they don’t suddenly wind up with a $200 million firefighting expense. This can all be worked out by the Federal Land Commission, of course, but it will take time. The way I see it each legislature would pass a Joint Resolution (not subject to veto — we’ll leave the governors out of this) listing the lands it wants, and the terms and conditions of the transfer. The Commission will make the decision, always based on the criteria of balancing the budget. We need revenues to the Federal Treasury, and/or reductions in federal spending. I thought the Commission would be able to wrap up its work in two years. It may need longer.
I chose Alaska as the first state to approach, and Washington the second, for what I thought were good reasons. I went to Idaho only because we thought me might still have a shot there this year. That turned out not to be true, but the House leadership was extremely receptive to the idea of the Reagan Amendment. All’s well that ends well. Oklahoma will be the next state, because, again, we think we’ve got a real shot there this year. Injecting the Reagan Amendment into the conversation might help. It won’t hurt. Sponsor Gary Banz will make the call. We didn’t have any time in Idaho. We’ll have almost two months in Oklahoma. The real appeal of the Reagan Amendment is that it can be the agenda around which the Amendment Convention organizes itself, later this year, perhaps in August at the Reagan Summit. That won’t be done before Oklahoma adjourns, however.
The other reason to do Oklahoma next is because of Gary Banz’s close involvement with the Assembly of Legislators. I don’t expect them to endorse the Reagan Amendment, by any means. But we want to work cooperatively with them.
Alaska legislators have had money to burn for the last 35 years. But the well is running dry, and they’re starting to cut their budget. Just a little. It’s just so darn hard. If Alaska gets its land from the Reagan Amendment they can put it off for another twenty years or so.
It’s good to be an Alaskan.