Assembly GOP renews opposition to mining tax

Assembly Republicans renew opposition to Senate GOP mining tax plan

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Assembly Republicans are renewing their opposition to a plan being pushed by some Senate colleagues to seek a 10 percent tax on Nevada's gold and silver mine operators.

"Members of the Assembly Republican caucus, many of whom represent areas of the state where mining is a vital partner in their local communities, are not anxious to single out the mining industry at a time when Nevada's economy is still trying to recover," Assemblyman James Oscarson, R-Pahrump, said in statement released late Thursday.

Six senators led by Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, are proposing a ballot question to raise the mining tax as an alternative to a 2 percent business tax that will be on the 2014 ballot.

The business tax option was an initiative backed by the Nevada State Education Association and other labor groups that gathered more than 150,000 signatures to send the matter to the 2013 Legislature. Legislators failed to act on it within 40 days as required by law, automatically sending it to voters next year.

Backers of that tax say it would raise $800 million annually for education.

Senate Republicans said their plan, which has yet to be introduced as a bill, would raise $600 million during the two-year budget cycle to fund education. It would be contingent upon ultimate approval of SJR15 to remove the mining industry's 5 percent tax cap on net proceeds that is in the state constitution. That resolution has cleared the Senate and awaits action the Assembly, where passage is likely. It would then go to voters in 2014 for ratification.

Without the support of Assembly Republicans and Gov. Brian Sandoval, it's questionable whether the Senate Republicans' plan will advance.

"Given Nevada's still high unemployment numbers, now would not be a good time to propose a tax that more than doubles the tax burden on a single industry that has been one of the state's strongest job creators," said Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko.

Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association, has said the industry would support efforts to broaden the state's tax base and called the targeting of a specific industry "short-sighted."

Assembly Republicans agree, saying legislators "should be looking at tax policies that are both broad and equitable and mitigate the financial burden on businesses and individuals."

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said if voters approve SJR15 next year, then lawmakers in 2015 "will decide if and how mining taxes should be reset."