Senate bill’s rider keeps Tahoe’s green |

Senate bill’s rider keeps Tahoe’s green

Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

Lake Tahoe restoration is on tap to receive federal funding of $20.05 million for this year, about $350,000 less than last year after the U.S. Senate late Thursday passed 11 appropriation measures.

The resolution that went before the Senate had $6.35 million earmarked for Lake Tahoe restoration by the Bush administration and an additional $14 million requested by Nevada lawmakers, including Sens. Harry Reid, a Democrat, and John Ensign, a Republican.

President Bush is expected to sign the budget package.

“Sen. Reid remains committed to protecting the lake and each year he tries to reach the funding established in the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act,” said Reid’s Press Secretary Tessa Hafen following the Senate vote. “Senator Reid had asked for more money, but when Republicans took control, a significant amount was cut from a number of projects. He will keep fighting for funding to protect and save Lake Tahoe.”

Earlier Thursday, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said in a telephone press conference that he was confident the Bush administration’s budget measure — one of 11 appropriation measures within the federal budget known as the Omnibus Appropriations Resolution — would gain Senate approval.

Ensign said he, Reid and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Reno, have been working through other areas of the federal budget, including the U.S. Forest Service, to come up with more funding to match the $30 million Congress has been authorized to spend annually for Lake Tahoe restoration projects.

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The money will be used to fund the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act signed by President Clinton in 1997, which authorized Congress to spend $300 million to fund projects that address the lake’s declining clarity.

The act authorizes Congress to spend up to $30 million a year for 10 years. However, money from budgets in the Clinton and Bush administrations haven’t matched the commitment.

The breakdown for 2003 appropriations spending is as follows:

n $15.95 million for Lake Tahoe restoration projects

n $3 million for the South Lake Tahoe environmental restoration project

n $500,000 for the Environmental Improvement Program for the Lake Tahoe Basin

n $400,000 for the Tahoe Basin conservation projects

n $200,000 for Tahoe Basin soil surveys

The target date to implement more than 900 environmental improvement program projects designed to help project the lake is 2010.

The appropriations package was passed last year by the House. The Senate had been working with the House Appropriations Committee to refine the package, which passed 76 to 20 in the Senate.

In other developments, Ensign introduced legislation Thursday that would end the Internal Revenue Service’s practice of double taxing workers’ wages.

Currently, people are double taxed because they pay federal income tax on Social Security taxes that are withheld from their paychecks. Ensign’s Payroll Tax Deduction Act would benefit 100 million workers — 90 percent of whom earn less than $100,000 year, he said.

“I don’t think people in America realized that not only is tax taken out for Social Security, but you are paying income tax on that tax,” Ensign said. “The legislation I introduced (Thursday) will directly benefit lower and middle income workers — the families and individuals who work the hardest but are too often hit the hardest by unfair taxes.”

City Editor Jeff Munson can be reached at