News that’s worth opining on but not reporting

As my ol’ Pappy used to say: Great minds travel in the same plane, but fools just think alike.

Two opinion writers this week independently dipped into the well of knowledge and scooped up the same conclusion.

In this week’s newspaper column — carried by The Ely Times, Eureka Sentinel, Mineral County Independent-News, Lincoln County Record and the Elko Daily Free Press, to make a shameless plug — this inveterate scribbler remarks on how pitifully paltry the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program is for states that have vast acreage controlled by the federal government and conclude that it would be far more profitable for Nevada to use Assembly Bill 227 as a way to start taking control of some of that land.

40 cents an acre for Nevada federal lands

In today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, one of the two surviving editorial writers remarked, “In Nevada, Washington controls a staggering 86 percent of the acreage. Yet Congress gets no property tax bills for Washington’s holdings — it drops loose change on the locals, then boasts about its benevolence.”

The R-J editorialist and I both remarked on the fact that Sen. Harry Reid, the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate, boasted about snagging PILT money for Nevada, though it amounts to about 40 cents an acre, far less than the funding for surrounding states.

And just as I concluded, the editorial concludes:

“Gov. Brian Sandoval recently signed Assembly Bill 227, which created the Nevada Land Management Task Force. The panel will make recommendations on the transfer of federal land to the state and push Congress to start doing so by 2015. This cause is vital to the state’s future.

“Give up your land, Uncle Sam.”

Of course, I dug a little bit deeper and pointed out that Reid said, “The Interior Department collects about $14 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting.”

What he did not say is that the grand total of PILT dollars doled out nationwide is $400 million. That’s $35 sent to Washington for every $1 sent back as PILT. Hardly a fair shake.

The remarkable thing about the perspicacity on the part of the R-J writer is that the news side at the paper — so far as I can find, though its search engine is dreadfully inadequate — has never deigned to mention PILT or AB227. The only mention I could find of AB227 was in an editorial back in May in which it topped the list of bills the opinion page was recommending the Legislature pass:

“Assembly Bill 227: One of the state’s biggest economic liabilities is a lack of private land; the federal government controls more than 80 percent of Nevada’s acreage. AB227 would lay the groundwork for the transfer of more federal land to local control.”

The news side did not find it important enough to ever mention.