Reid: Deal ends pursuit of land funds
WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says the Bush administration has agreed to abandon its claim to millions of dollars generated by the sale of public land in southern Nevada.
The Nevada Democrat said Friday that he had brokered a deal in which the White House promised to drop its claim on the money in return for Democratic support for the confirmation of former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne as Interior secretary.
Kempthorne was approved by the Senate on Friday, overcoming objections from a handful of Democrats. He was later sworn in by White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice present.
“I said before that I couldn’t support Governor Kempthorne’s nomination unless we could come to an agreement about key public land issues,” Reid said in a statement from his office. “I’m happy to say that we have.
“The White House has agreed to honor the purpose of the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, and will not try to divert any funding away from the state of Nevada for the duration of this administration,” another two years, Reid said.
The Bush administration and lawmakers in Congress have sought the funds generated by the sale of land under the 1998 Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act.
The law directed the Bureau of Land Management to auction off federal land in Clark County and to spend the profits entirely within the state.
Thanks to soaring land prices around Las Vegas, the sales have generated $2.7 billion since 1999.
Under the law, 85 percent of the proceeds have funded parks and trails and conservation improvements throughout the state. Portion also go to the Southern Nevada Water Authority and into the state education fund.
The administration had proposed redirecting 70 percent of the profits back to the Treasury for deficit reduction.
“Senator (John) Ensign and I have worked together in recent years to defeat multiple proposals that would have stolen Nevada’s money,” Reid said. “I’m pleased that these battles are now over.”
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