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Utah lawmakers set aside another $7 million for national parks just as Congress reaches deal

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16 2013 7:30 p.m. MDT

The federal government did not commit to repay the state, but the bill urges Utah's congressional delegation to seek reimbursement.

"This is strictly an investment on our part and good faith that they'll give it back to us," Ipson said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, signed onto a bill in Congress that would pay back states within 90 days that use state money to reopen national parks.

"It’s only fair and right for the state to be reimbursed for picking up the federal government’s slack," Hatch said, adding he hopes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brings the bill up for a vote soon.

The money earmarked for national parks will run through the Utah Department of Natural Resources, and the agency would need legislative leaders' approval to spend it. It would be drawn from the state's $24 million sovereign lands management fund, made up mostly of revenue from mineral leases.

The Legislature also passed two other bills Wednesday to minimize the impact of a prolonged federal shutdown.

One covers health benefits and holiday pay for furloughed state employees who work in federal programs in the Utah National Guard, Workforce Services, Office of Rehabilitation Services, Utah Labor Commission and Utah Department of Health.

"I believe this is a nice thing for us to be able to do for our employees," the bill's Senate sponsor, Senate Majority Assistant Whip Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, said.

The other authorizes the State Board of Education to pay for federal child nutrition programs to offset a potential loss of federal funding.

Neither bill appropriates any money. It would come from existing budgets.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy; DNewsPolitics

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