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Millions Proposed for Rural Nevada Without Sacrificing Public Lands

March 29, 2007

The U.S. Senate voted by a wide margin yesterday to tack an emergency spending amendment onto the war spending bill that has major implications for Nevada counties, schools and public lands. By a vote of 75-22 the Senate passed the Wyden Amendment, which proposes to fully fund the PILT or payment in lieu of taxes program. Rose Stickland with the Sierra Club thinks it's doubly good news because rural counties get a major boost without having to sacrifice public lands.

"These PILT payments and rural school funds often make up a large percentage of rural county budgets, and this increase in funds is not tied to liquidating public lands in Nevada."

Senator Harry Reid estimates Nevada will get about 20 million dollars in 2007, and he says there should be slight increases in that amount through the year 2012. The payments are compensation for states that have a lot of federal land that isn't subject to state taxation.

At the Western Lands Project, Janine Blaeloch says it's a relief to have the new plan on the table, because the Bush administration proposal to sell off public lands to fund counties was not going to work.

"The public keeps saying whenever these proposals come forward to sell-off public lands, they do not want to do that, not even to fund schools."

According to Mike Anderson with the Wilderness Society, a major source of the emergency funding will come from closing tax loopholes. He says if the funding is signed into law, Nevada will gain about six million dollars next year.

"Every rural county in Nevada that has federal lands is going to be receiving additional funding to support local governments and rural schools; the federal lands are protected and the counties are going to get their due."

Michael Clifford/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NV