Monday, April 1, 2013

Senate Passes SJR 15 (Again).

Last week, we saw a breakthrough. Just weeks after facing near death, SJR 15 was resurrected in an unanimous Senate Revenue & Economic Development Committee vote. Today, the resurrection continued as the full Senate voted 17-4 in favor. Only Senators Barbara Cegavske (R-Spring Valley), Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka), Don Gustavson (R-Sparks), and James Settlemeyer (R-Minden) objected.

Otherwise, "The Senate GOP Mod Squad" joined with all the Senate Democrats to pass the bill. It now moves onto the Assembly. And as long as it passes there (again), it moves onto the 2014 general election ballot for final approval.

So why again is this important? Take a look at this again.

• Trans-national mining conglomerates took $8.76 billion in gold from Nevada in 2011, and paid a total of $104 million to the state general fund under the mining tax, an effective tax rate of 1.187%. In 2010, they mined $6.64 billion in gold, and paid $71.7 million in taxes, an effective tax rate of 1.079%. (Nevada Department of Taxation)

• Mining does pay sales tax and they pay certain property taxes —but not on the value of the mine or their mining claims. Renters, the unemployed, and minimum wage workers also pay sales and property taxes. But gold mining is different, so it should be taxed differently. Once that gold is gone, it’s gone forever. The money will be in Canada and other foreign countries, leaving Nevada with clean up costs and massive pits.

• Three of the five largest mines in Nevada are foreign-owned. The second largest mine in the world, and the most profitable mine in the world, is owned by Barrick corporation, based in Canada. This single mine will exceed $1 billion in profits in 2012, having reaped $500 million in the second quarter and $313 million in the third quarter of 2012 alone.

• Barrick pays next to nothing in taxes on the huge windfall profits from the world’s most profitable gold mine—paying a mere 1% on gross production value in taxes to Nevada’s General Fund in 2010, according to the state’s 2010-11 net proceeds of minerals tax (NPOM) bulletin.

As we've discussed before, SJR 15 takes the mining industry's current tax rate and deductions out of the Nevada Constitution so that our legislators have more authority over future mining taxes. That's all. Yet because that's SJR 15, mining industry lobbyists have fought hard to shoot it down this session (after exasperation over the status quo finally convinced most legislators to pass it the first time in 2011).

However, the story isn't over quite yet. The Assembly must now pass SJR 15 (again). Then in November 2014, voters must provide final approval. And actually, that's what likely scares the mining industry the most.

So this story may be far from over... But the mining industry already fears the ending. We'll have to see if the Assembly moves us closer to that happy ending.

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