Reid and Gibbons to address legislature this coming week

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., will both address the Nevada Legislature this coming week.

Among the topics they are expected to address is the President's plan to take money from southern Nevada public land sales and put it in the U.S. treasury. That money has gone to environmental projects, conservation and education in Nevada since the land sales act was passed.

Those land sales this past year raised more than $700 million for programs in both southern Nevada and the Tahoe basin. Next year, the total is expected to exceed $1 billion.

President Bush wants to take the money to reduce the $527 billion deficit in his budget, which both Gibbons and Reid have said they will fight.

Under existing law, 5 percent of the land act money goes for education in Nevada, 10 percent for water infrastructure and 85 percent for conservation, parks, recreation and environmental projects including acquisition of sensitive lands. Gibbons himself wants to change the act to give 35 percent to education and eliminate land acquisition from the formula.

He said the federal government already owns 91 percent of the land in Nevada and the percentage is growing because of that acquisition money.

Gibbons is proposing the change not only to stop the federal purchases of land in the state but to replace education funding lost by the elimination of the estate tax. Estate tax money Nevada receives is currently split between public schools and the university system, each of which counts on about $30 million a year from that source. Gibbons is one of the sponsors and biggest supporters of eliminating the estate tax.

Reid will speak at 5 p.m. Wednesday before a joint session of the Senate and Assembly. Gibbons will speak Thursday at 5 p.m.

Both are expected to discuss the impact of the President's proposed budget cuts on Nevada. Social services groups and Gov. Kenny Guinn say some of those cuts -- particularly in Medicaid -- would cause problems for Nevada's seniors, the disabled and low income children among others. And officials of Nevada's small counties say the proposed reduction in PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) to counties with the most public land in their borders would hurt them badly.

That budget proposes at least one welcome reduction, however -- the cut in funding for the Yucca Mountain project which some say is a sign the Administration is beginning to give up on the project.

Traditionally, all the members of Nevada's congressional delegation address each session of the Legislature. Rep. Shelly Berkley, D-Nev., will speak March 24 and Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., is scheduled for March 30. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is also expected to address lawmakers but has not yet scheduled his appearance.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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