A narrow plurality of Nevada voters say the state's mining industry should pay higher taxes on minerals, even if it takes an amendment to the state's constitution.
That's the result of a recent survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, commissioned by the Review-Journal.
According to the poll, 40 percent of likely voters support and 37 percent oppose changing the way mineral proceeds are taxed, which is proposed in a ballot initiative led by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, or PLAN. There were 23 percent undecided and the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The poll, taken last Monday through Wednesday, asked respondents whether they would support changing the tax on net proceeds from mines to a tax on gross proceeds. It also asked whether they support changing the 5 percent cap on the net tax to a 5 percent floor on the gross.
PLAN says such a change could generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually that could be used to support schools and other social services.
Mining industry leaders say it represents a 300 percent tax increase that unfairly targets one type of business and would put miners out of work.
PLAN is seeking to gather 130,000 signatures by June 15 to ensure they can get the question in front of voters in November. If it passes, it would take another vote in 2012 to go into effect.
PLAN executive director Bob Fulkerson says the group has about 10,000 signatures so far and is aware of the looming deadline.
"It is a little bit too close for comfort, but we are confident we are going to make it," Fulkerson said. "It is going to take people working overtime. It is a lot of hard work, that is for sure."
Fulkerson said polls that balance higher taxes on mining against more funding for schools show higher support than those that highlight the fact such a tax would require a constitutional amendment.
"People don't like to change the constitution unless, of course, it is to strip gays of the right to marry," Fulkerson said.
Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association, says the industry still has a legal challenge pending against part of PLAN's initiative with a June 7 court date in the Nevada Supreme Court.
In the meantime, he said the industry will press its case with the public, arguing such a tax will result in the closing of mines and loss of jobs.
"We have to do more to educate the public, I think we have done a poor job of it in the past," Crowley said.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.