Mining group will give $100 million towards shortfall

CARSON CITY -- The Nevada Mining Association formally agreed Friday to provide $100 million in additional revenue to help reduce the state's $887 million revenue shortfall.

Tim Crowley, the association's president, said the industry will back a temporary $125 additional fee on mining claims, which raises $25 million, and prepay $20 million in mining taxes that it would be required to pay in the future.

In addition, Crowley has said that mining companies will pay at least $50 million more in mining taxes than was anticipated when state government calculated tax revenue for all industries last May. The actual increase could top $60 million.

This additional revenue comes from the rising price of gold, now selling for $1,117 per ounce, which Crowley told senators even mining companies could not have anticipated.

"Mining will work to fill $100 million of the deficit that we were called upon to fill" by legislative Democrats, said Crowley as senators listened to business leaders tell them whether they can afford to pay higher taxes or fees. "This is our way of filling the $100 million gap we have been asked to fill."

But representatives from the Nevada Resort Association and the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce told senators that their businesses have been hit severely by the recession and they cannot pay anything more in taxes or fees.

Crowley's announcement comes a day after the Nevada Resort Association notified legislators that it would not pony up any additional money to help the Legislature cover the shortfall.

"It shows tremendous corporate citizenship by you to address the budget crisis," said Senate Majority Leader Steve Horsford, D-Las Vegas. "The fact you are willing to come to the table speaks volumes for the mining industry."

Earlier Friday, Horsford blasted the gaming industry for rejecting Democrats' proposals that would require it to pay $32 million in fees to cover the costs related to regulation of gaming.

Horsford himself, however, acknowledged that about half of all revenue state government comes from taxes paid by coming.

Without the additional contribution from gaming, Horsford said 800 teachers would be laid off.

"We believe the job of a Culinary worker or a dealer is just as important as any other job," replied Las Vegas advertising executive Billy Vassiliadis, representing the Nevada Resort Association. "We don't want anyone to lose a job."

If the gaming industry had to pay $32 million in fees to cover regulatory costs, then, Vassiliadis said, 1,000 gaming workers would be laid off.

He added that 34,000 gaming workers already have lost jobs since the onset of the recession and the gaming industry lost $6.7 billion in the last fiscal year.

"For the first time, this year we just cannot help," he added.

But he promised to come before the Legislature in 2011 and work on a new broad-based tax plan that will be fair for all businesses.

Veronica Meter, a lobbyist for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, said the businesses her organization represents all cannot pay higher taxes or fees to help reduce the shortfall.

Meter said the companies represented by the chamber have 200,000 employees. She noted last year the chamber supported the bill that nearly doubled the payroll taxes companies pay on their employees' wages.

Her comments were reiterated by Tray Abney, representing the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce.

"You are absolutely wasting our time," said Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, after they spoke. "You have to be at the table now. I live here. I love it here. I don't want to see it unravel."