Washington, DC, November 16, 2011 – The Competitive Enterprise Institute and Freedom Action on Tuesday proposed to Congress’s Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that a minimum of $300 billion in additional revenues be raised by unlocking non-performing and under-performing federal assets.
The $300 billion would be raised through a combination of sales of federal lands and other assets, expedited oil and gas production on federal lands and in federal offshore areas, returning the National Forest System to profitability by increasing timber sales, increasing coal leasing on federal lands, and auctioning broadband spectrum.
“We offer our suggestion of adding $300 billion in revenues without raising taxes in the hope that it can help break the impasse in the Super Committee,” said Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment and president of Freedom Action.
The federal government owns almost 30% of the land in the United States, most of which is controlled by the four federal land agencies and the Department of Defense. Many of these lands and other federal properties have high commercial potential. Selling some federal lands and buildings will put money in the federal treasury and put unproductive assets to use, thereby increasing local property taxes as well as corporate and personal income taxes.
Federal lands and offshore areas have huge oil and gas resources, most of which are closed to production. In addition, federal lands have enormous coal, timber, and mineral resources. Expedited oil and gas leasing and permitting will add federal revenues through lease auctions and royalty payments once production begins. National Forest timber sales can be increased from roughly two billion board feet per year to their historic, sustainable level of twelve billion board feet per year.
“Rather than gaining additional revenue through tax increases, which depress economic activity, unlocking federal assets will provide a huge boost to the American economy, far beyond the additional $300 billion in federal revenue,” Ebell continued. “Putting federal lands and resources to use will also lead to trillions of dollars of new economic activity and put millions of people to work in real jobs—that is, jobs that are not subsidized by taxpayers.
“When companies or families get into financial trouble, one of the first things they do is see if they have anything they aren’t using or don’t need that can be sold or put to use,” Ebell continued. “The federal government, which has colossal potential assets that are locked up, should be doing the same thing.”