Trains for Nevada but not the nation

The federal budget proposed by George Bush would have substantial impact on Nevada.

Bush is proposing $8.5 million for the “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator,” also known as the “bunker buster”—a new line of nuclear weapons.

“Look, I am very disappointed but not surprised, and I’ve been saying for a long time this is a long-term fight,” U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah told the Salt Lake Tribune. “It’s bad for our troops, it’s bad for our military, and it’s bad for the state of Utah.”

Matheson believes going ahead with the weapon could lead to new nuclear testing in Nevada, which nuclear scientists have declined to rule out.

“Our goal is to carry out this program without the need for nuclear testing,” John Harvey of the National Nuclear Security Administration has said. “But there’s no guarantees in this business, and I can’t prove to you that I can do that right now.”

Bush’s proposed budget also reduces federal funding for several education programs Nevada uses, including dropout prevention and after-school programs. It also reduces general education funding, and House Democrats claimed the lost money would be equivalent to the Title I reading and math funds for 11,719 Nevada children.

The Bush budget hits veteran funding hard, particularly health care, with national cuts of $13.5 billion. Because Nevada attracts a large number of new senior citizen residents, typically including many veterans of several wars, this could be a substantial setback for health care in the state.

Bush’s proposals cut funding for community police, bringing to fruition a warning voiced when Bill Clinton first proposed using federal funds for local police—that when the federal dollars ran out, local communities would be put in the position of either paying for the additional police officers or reducing their police forces.

Bush cuts in environmental protection threaten funding for Nevada’s only site that is currently qualified for Superfund money—the cleanup of the Carson River, permeated with mercury from 1860s ore milling.

Bush also wants to dip into a fund peculiar to Nevada. Since the 1980s, under a measure called the Santini/Burton Act, money from sales of federal land in Southern Nevada could be used for preservation and protection of the Lake Tahoe basin, a mechanism later folded into the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. Bush claims the arrangement is producing more money than anyone dreamed and that the extra should be diverted into other purposes.

Santini says, “It’s a rape of the fund, is what it is. This is money derived from Nevada and it should be put to use in Nevada, not siphoned off into some general fund sinkhole or to some other agency.”

Bush cut funding for the Yucca Mountain project from $1.3 billion requested by the U.S. Energy Department to $651 million.

Bush also wants all federal subsidies to Amtrak eliminated, essentially decimating the passenger rail line. Amtrak services the northern tier of Nevada from Elko County to Washoe County. But plans for a railroad to be built by the federal government in Southern Nevada for the shipment of nuclear waste as part of the Yucca dump will go ahead.