Latest tax idea comes from ... the GOP?


Well, there they go again.

Those pro-tax, pro-education lawmakers, constantly searching for more dollars to pump into the public schools, have announced yet another proposal to raise taxes on yet another struggling Nevada industry. When does it end?

When will it ever be enough for those dastardly Republicans?

Yes, you read that right — it’s the Republicans who are advocating an increase in taxes imposed on Nevada’s gold and silver mining industry, with the proceeds to be used on public schools. An announcement from a majority of state Senate Republicans took much of Nevada by surprise on Tuesday, a rare OMG moment in Nevada’s political history.

Here’s how it would work: First, the Legislature would have to pass Senate Joint Resolution 15, a measure first approved in 2011 that would eliminate the constitutional cap on mining taxes. That measure would then go to the voters for their approval.

Second, the Legislature would have to pass a yet-to-be-devised mining tax, placing it on the ballot as an alternative to the Nevada State Education Association’s 2 percent margins tax on business. That, too, would go on the November 2014 ballot.

Third, voters would have their say: If a majority of people vote for the margins tax, it becomes law. But if a majority votes for SJR 15 and the alternative mining tax, then it would become law instead.

In addition to showing how much Republicans loathe the business tax — they’re willing to throw mining under the bus to save businesses! — the measure is a genuine political maneuver: It offers voters (especially liberal ones, for whom mining has been a longtime target) a tough choice: Tax mining or tax business. But not both.

So, the GOP haven’t gone totally soft on taxes. But you wouldn’t know from the amazing statement announcing the tax idea, which reads as if it was written by the wild-eyed, tax-loving, mine-hating liberals of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

“We value the [mining] industry’s positive impact on Nevada’s economy and our communities, and we want the mining industry to be productive and profitable,” said Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson in the statement. “However, mining is different from every other industry in this state. Billions of dollars of nonrenewable natural resources are extracted from our state and shipped out of state every year. These resources cannot be replenished. At some point the gold will be gone. And, when the gold is gone, mining will be gone. It is imperative that we ensure that Nevadans get the best deal we can, while we can.”

That’s one of the prime liberal arguments in favor of increasing mining’s taxes, but now it’s coming from the Senate’s top Republican.

And then there’s the numbers: According to Republicans, mining produced $8.8 billion in gross revenue in 2011, and paid $203 million in state and local taxes, about 2.3 percent of gross revenue. But the gambling industry paid $694 million during the same period on gross revenues of $10.8 billion.

If mining were taxed at 10 percent of gross revenues, it would pay $630 million. If it were taxed at 6.75 percent (the top tier of the gross gambling tax), it would pay $780 million. (Of course, those numbers change as the price of gold and silver fall, as they are sure to do in an improving economy.)

There are still hurdles to overcome — will Democrats make the tough choice to embrace the Republican idea instead of the teachers union plan? Will Gov. Brian Sandoval agree to put the alternative mining tax on the ballot? (His signature wouldn’t raise the tax, but would allow voters to decide. But Sandoval has come out squarely against new taxes.) And what will voters do, given the options?

So many questions raised by those rascally, pro-tax, pro-public school Republicans.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.