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Enzi, Lummis launch legislation to restore state mineral payments

May 15, 2013 By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

The money amounts to $53 million in Wyoming alone.

CHEYENNE -- A bipartisan group of western lawmakers is pushing legislation in Washington to restore cuts of $110 million in federal mineral royalty payments to 35 states.

Senators from New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Idaho signed onto legislation introduced Tuesday by Sen. Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican. Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.

The bills would allow states to collect royalty payments directly from companies that produce minerals from federal lands within their borders while placing the states' share off-limits to federal budget cuts.

Mineral-producing states and the federal government traditionally have split the proceeds 50-50, but the cuts this year under the federal budget reduction law would take more than 5 percent from the states' share. Wyoming is the nation's largest coal-producing state and stands to lose $53 million in this year's cuts while New Mexico, the next-highest state, would lose $26 million.

Federal officials have said they have no choice about the cuts, which they regard the same as any other government appropriations.

Western lawmakers, however, say their states have a right to the money and that it ought to be off-limits to budget cuts.

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