By JOHN RASCHE
Free Press Staff Writer
ELKO — A hearing for the proposed Senate Joint Resolution 15 revolved around one word: Uncertainty.
The Assembly’s Committee on Taxation discussed the mining tax bill Thursday afternoon with broadcasts to Elko and Las Vegas. SJR15 would repeal a provision in the state constitution that caps the mining industry’s net proceeds of minerals at 5 percent.
“It will create uncertainty for county revenues ... and uncertainty about taxes to the mining industry moving forward,” Nevada Mining Association President Tim Crowley said before the committee in Carson City. “... Some say we don’t pay our fair share of taxes — that’s absolutely true. We pay more than our fair share of taxes.”
Several community members met at Great Basin College to oppose the bill, but Elko City Councilman Rich Perry was the only one to speak before the committee via video conference because of time constraints.
Perry read highlights from a letter the city recently sent to the Assembly in opposition to SJR15 and Senate Bill 400.
“The notion that natural resource industries are protected from taxation by the State Constitution and are therefore protected from additional taxation is not true,” Perry said. “In reality, the Nevada State Legislature could enact additional taxes on the industry with or without changes to the Constitution.
“...While we believe that all Nevada industries should do their part, legislation that so drastically affects our state and local governments should be carefully reviewed and analyzed, so as to avoid negative and unintended consequences.”
Supporters of SJR15 argued that because of the state’s financial condition, the mining industry should be placed on the same level playing field as other industries in Nevada.
The provision in the state constitution was written over a hundred years ago, they noted, when Nevada’s mining industry was far different than what it is now.
“I know the mining companies think they pay plenty,” Las Vegas resident Marla Turner told the committee. “I’m sure every business in Nevada thinks the same thing, that they pay plenty. Yet, no one but mining tries to get out of their fair share by saying, ‘I haven’t had to in the past and I don’t want to now.’”
Michael Ginsburg, the Southern Nevada director for Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, called SJR15 something that has been used for “scaring our rural neighbors, brothers and sisters into thinking that they will lose their funding.”
The bill, he said, is really “about giving the people of this state permission to take and undo something the mining industry put into our constitution that is limiting our Legislature (from making) a decision as to how the industry’s taxed and how much it is taxed.”
Supporters of SJR15 spoke before the committee in both Carson City and Las Vegas. Assemblyman John Ellison and Elko County School Superintendent Jeff Zander were among the vocal opponents in Carson City against the bill. From Elko’s end, there was only further opposition to SJR15.
The Assembly committee concluded the debate between the bill’s supporters and critics after three-and-a-half hours. No action was taken.