by JERI CHADWELL
As the price of gold hit its lowest level in a month today, the Assembly Committee on Taxation took a vote on a controversial resolution that would remove the state’s long-standing mining tax cap. Senate Joint Resolution 15 made its way through the Legislature during the 2011 session and needs only to pass in the Assembly before June 4 in order to go to a public vote next year.
After just a few minutes of discussion and an unanswered call for public comment, Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams moved to pass the resolution. The move was quickly seconded and the committee went into recess after a 7-5 vote in favor of passage.
A handful of mining lobbyists and journalists were present in room 4100 of the legislative building when the committee took its vote, a mere fraction of the number who were in attendance during the May 2 meeting when legislators heard public comment from eight opponents of the resolution and seven supporters.
At present, mining operations in Nevada are taxed on their net proceeds—their proceeds after operating expenses. The rate of taxes on mining net proceeds was capped at 5 percent in 1989. Supporters of SJR15 say that the tax cap and other mining tax provisions reflect an outdated imperative from the days when mining was the state’s largest industry. Mining currently ranks as the 9th largest industry in the state.
Nevada historian and former state archivist, Guy Rocha was one of the individuals who testified in favor of the resolution during the May 2 meeting. In his written testimony, he asked legislators to give Nevadans the opportunity to vote on the issue.
“In the end, let 21st-century Nevadans decide if they want their elected representatives to decide mining tax policy and mining taxes or continue with a mining tax policy dictated by the state constitution first adopted almost 150 years ago under circumstances dramatically different than today,” Rocha said.
Opponents of the resolution point out that the 5 percent tax on net proceeds is not the only tax that mining operations pay. Like any other business, mines must also pay payroll, property, sales taxes, etc. Some opponents have also suggested that mining operations might actually pay lower taxes if the resolution were to pass and the tax cap were removed from the constitution.
SJR15 passed the Senate on April 1 in a vote of 17-4 and is expected to pass in the Assembly as well. If it does it will be placed on the ballot for the 2014 general election.