ELKO – A district court order on whether the Nevada Legislature can move forward with efforts to raise taxes on the mining industry could come out yet this week or early next week, said Deputy Elko County District Attorney Rand Greenburg.
The order “would stop bills from going forward, unless there is an appeal to the Supreme Court. If there is an appeal to the Supreme Court the bills could go forward, until there is a final decision by the Supreme Court,” he said Wednesday.
“The Supreme Court decision would be final and would result in stopping the bills or would grant the Legislature the ability to pass the bills,” Greenburg said in an email after his report earlier in the day to Elko County Commissioners.
Commissioners informally agreed they want Nevada lawmakers to better understand how important the mining industry is to Elko County’s economy.
Jon Karr, chairman of the commissioners, said he wants to invite state lawmakers from Las Vegas to come to Elko “to see what our livelihood is and if they want to impact it.”
Commissioner Cliff Eklund said the board “needs to take an active stance” against raising mining taxes, especially the two resolutions calling for amending the Nevada Constitution to allow a tax on gross proceeds of mining, rather than net proceeds. The third would raise the net proceeds tax.
He said tax hikes would take money away from mining operations, which could result in layoffs or “shutdowns of marginal mines that work on a shoestring. We would lose jobs and it would be hard on our economy.”
Elko County joined a lawsuit against proposed ballot questions that would call for amend the Nevada Constitution to raise mineral taxes that Lander County originally filed in early September. Elko, Pershing and White Pine counties joined the lawsuit that was later consolidated with a similar claim filed by Nevada Gold Mines.
Nevada Gold Mines owns all the former Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Corp. mines in northeastern Nevada and is the largest gold producer in the state.
One proposed change would be to remove the 5% cap on net proceeds from minerals taxes and tax gross proceeds at 7.75%, with 25% of proceeds going to education. Another would allow the 7.75% tax on net proceeds but send 50% of the tax proceeds to state residents, while the third resolution would keep a net proceeds tax but raise the cap from 5 to 12%.
Carson City District Judge James Wilson heard from all sides in the lawsuit on Jan. 14. The Nevada Independent reported that arguments were focused on the legislative process, such as whether state lawmakers violated constitutional rules and requirements during the 2020 legislative session when the proposed constitutional changes were passed.
The attorney for Nevada Gold Mines, Todd Bice, accused lawmakers in the 2020 special session of a “naked power grab,” according to the Nevada Independent, while Solicitor General Craig Newby said the lawsuit should be dismissed because it focused on the “prospect of a future problem.”
If the judge allows the resolutions to go forward, they could be passed by the 2021 session to go on the statewide balloting in 2022.
With Nevada suffering financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic, mining companies agreed in that special session to pay net proceeds taxes in advance to help the state’s economy, but they were not happy about the proposed constitutional changes.