Welcome to Biggs' Freedom Fridays
May 18, 2018 – Government Waste Erodes Our Freedom, Part VI:
Federal Land Acquisition Accounts
Total Cost to Arizona Taxpayers: $4,175,451, or $1.62 per Arizona household
Cumulative Cost to Arizona Taxpayers of “Freedom Friday” Government Waste: $248,327,722, or $96.84 per household
What are Land Acquisition accounts?
Land Acquisition accounts were created to provide the resources necessary for federal agencies to purchase land, accept donated land, and facilitate land exchanges. The accounts are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
Over the years, Congress has sent billions of dollars into these accounts, allowing the federal government to acquire roughly 640 million acres. This means the federal government owns about 28% of the land in the United States and about 40% of the land in Arizona. Roughly 95% of these lands are managed by the FWS, BLM, NPS, and USFS.
What is the problem?
The unnecessary ownership and subsequent management of such large areas of land comes at great expense to the American taxpayer and poses overwhelming challenges for land-managing agencies. The deferred maintenance backlog for the National Park Service, for example, totals nearly $12 billion, while the remaining three agencies have a collective backlog of $7.8 billion. One detrimental delay in our home state is maintenance of the 80-year-old Trans Canyon Pipeline in the Grand Canyon. And yet, instead of using the money to manage existing lands and provide the necessary resources to eliminate the backlog, the Obama Administration funneled millions of dollars into purchasing more land to control.
Given these challenges, it defies common sense to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on land acquisition. Instead, we should use our limited resources to care for the land already owned by the government and consider ways to reduce the overall estate of the federal government.
What am I doing about it?
In April, I led a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging them to cut almost $200 million from the land acquisition accounts of the FWS, BLM, NPS, and USFS. This request reflects President Trump’s priority to support management of existing lands rather than acquisition of new lands. I will continue to press congressional appropriators to end the purchase of land by the federal government.
Article I of the United States Constitution grants Congress exclusive power to write federal laws. This structure allows the American people to hold their elected representatives accountable for the policy decisions they make. Over the years, however, Congress has increasingly ceded power to the executive branch by allowing agencies run by unelected bureaucrats to implement regulations that have the force and effect of law.
In 2016 alone, the Obama Administration published nearly 4,000 new regulations. Compared to the number of laws passed by Congress in the same year, that averages out to 18 regulations for every new law. Aside from the constitutional concerns, these regulations have a significant negative impact on the American economy. When factoring in the federal intervention, uncertainty, wealth destruction, job loss, and overall stifling of entrepreneurship, the 2016 cost of regulations was $1.89 trillion, or nearly $15,000 per household. It is time for Congress to reclaim ownership of its privilege and responsibility to write the laws for our nation. The American people must no longer suffer at the hands of unaccountable federal officials.
During the early months of the 115th Congress, the House and the Senate used the Congressional Review Act to overturn 15 regulations implemented in the waning days of the Obama Administration. It is estimated that the repeal of these rules alone could save the economy millions of hours of paperwork, as much as $3.7 billion in regulatory costs to federal agencies, and up to $35 billion in compliance costs for industry.
We made an excellent start to rolling back the regulatory state, but it absolutely should not end our efforts. My main priority while in Congress is to restore the constitutional parameters of the federal government, including ending overregulation. With that in mind, each Friday, I will highlight a freedom-killing regulation that is currently in effect. Check back here each week for updates and follow along in the “Freedom Fridays” section of my newsletter. If you do not already receive my newsletter, you can sign up here.