Administration official says tax cut could take Lake Tahoe money |

Administration official says tax cut could take Lake Tahoe money

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. (AP) – Sure, wealthy estate owners on the banks of Lake Tahoe would benefit from the $788 billion tax cut proposed in Congress. But the lake itself could suffer as a result, a Clinton administration official says.

Restoration efforts under way at Lake Tahoe are a good example of the kind of environmental initiatives that could be jeopardized if the Republican tax cut forces future spending cuts, Assistant Agriculture Secretary Jim Lyons said.

The tax cut ”will benefit many, many people in the (Tahoe) basin,” he said after a shoreside workshop two years after a presidential summit identified nearly $1 billion worth of environmental problems at the lake.

”But I’m not aware that there is a lot of money in there to protect Lake Tahoe or improve natural resources generally across the country,” said Lyons, who oversees the Forest Service.

”It’s a matter of priorities. The president has made clear this is a priority.”

As Lyons made his comments in Nevada Wednesday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert took the battle to his home state of Illinois, urging taxpayers to support the GOP plan or watch Democrats use the money ”to make government bigger.”

President Clinton has said a smaller tax cut, in the neighborhood of $300 billion, is all the government can afford while reducing the national debt and guarding against an economic downturn.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a big backer of Lake Tahoe protection efforts, opposes the GOP-backed tax and has said he’d support a $300 billion proposal.

But Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., who participated in the workshop at Lake Tahoe on Wednesday, said the GOP plans only to cut ”inefficient programs that have little or nothing to do with Lake Tahoe.”

”The Republican Congress has added money to the government agencies that are important. Lake Tahoe would absolutely not be affected. Mr. Lyons is wrong,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons and Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., plan House legislation similar to a bill by Reid and Sen. Dianne Feinstein calling for $300 million in federal spending over 10 years to help protect Lake Tahoe.

The 10-year plan, also backed by the Clinton administration, would add up to more than $900 million overall, including $275 million from California, $82 million from Nevada, $150 million from private entities and $100 million from local governments.

It includes projects to reduce pollution and erosion, ease fire threats and bolster public transportation in the popular vacation spot.

Still one of the clearest lakes in the world, Tahoe’s clarity is declining at about 1 foot a year. The white dinner plate visible at 100 feet deep just 30 years ago now can be seen only to depths of 70 feet.

Feinstein, Nevada Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn also joined the workshop, at a state park along Sand Harbor, just south of Incline Village. The wealthy town has the nickname ”Income Village,” partly because billionaires are buying out the millionaires with lakefront property there.

”Everybody is on the same side,” Lyons said. ”We all want to protect Lake Tahoe. But we have to demonstrate our commitment in dollars.”

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