Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Senator Roberson's $600 Million Question

Last night, we got word of Senator Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) finally unveiling his IP 1 alternative mining tax initiative. Today, it's finally been revealed. Here's Ralston with his take.

On the day marking the two-thirds point of Session '13, state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson and five of his GOP colleagues plan to unveil a $600 million a biennium net proceeds tax on mines, sources confirmed.

The so-called Education Priority Initiative from the folks I have affectionately dubbed the Dirty Half-Dozen would be promoted as a way to reduce class sizes by hiring teachers, fund English Language Learner programs and set up a stabilization fund dedicated to education. The mining tax would be earmarked only for education funding.

The tax would take effect in November 2014 and assumes passage of SJR 15 (taking mining taxation out of the Constitution where net proceeds is capped at 5 percent). I also understand that the tax would apply to operations with net proceeds exceeding $4 million a year, and the operations would still be obligated to pay above that to local entities mandated under the current law. That's clearlly designed to remove any argument this would harm local governments and school districts.

Clearly, Ralston is excited by this. However, there are two major problems. And Ralston himself knows what they are.

One is the law. At best (for Roberson, that is), the Nevada Constitution is unclear as to how legislators can propose an alternative to a citizen's initiative, especially when the Governor would rather not. At worst, Governor Brian Sandoval (R), Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), and Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) are all correct in finding Roberson's proposal unconstitutional.

The other problem is the politics. As we've discussed before, Roberson's proposal has led to yet another major division among Nevada Republicans. While Roberson assembled a Senate GOP "Mod Squad" of six to support it, Governor Sandoval, the other Republican Senators, the bulk of Republican Assembly Members, and the "tea party" activist base of the party have all aligned against it. Roberson desperately needs Democrats for this to have any chance of passage, but Democrats so far look to be keeping their distance from any proposal to ratfuck harm The Education Initiative that's already legally qualified for next year's general election ballot.

So where are Senator Roberson and his tax initiative supposed to go from here? Right now, that's the $600 million question.

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