CARSON CITY — With Assembly approval on Thursday, Nevada voters next year will be asked if the mining industry’s constitutional limit on the taxes they pay for extracting gold and other precious metals should be repealed.
The vote on Senate Joint Resolution 15 was 26-15, the final step needed to put it on the 2014 general election ballot. It was a party-line vote with all Republicans opposed.
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature is not required to send the measure to the ballot.
If approved by voters, the repeal would allow the 2015 Legislature to consider raising the 5 percent tax on the net proceeds of the gold and other minerals it sells. The cap is currently in the state constitution and needs voter approval to be removed.
Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams, D-Las Vegas, spoke in support of the measure, saying voters should have the chance to determine whether to remove the provision from the constitution.
But Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, said Nevada has focused so much on bringing new business to the state it has forgotten that mining helped build the state. Mining salaries at $88,000 on average are more than twice that of other jobs, he said.
“Just this one bill has the power to close many of the small ore mines around Nevada and can adversely change the way mining is done forever,” he said.
Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, also opposed the measure, saying it will introduce an unstable element into the state economy.
“Passing SJR15 and creating this instability in our marketplace will not create one job in Nevada,” he said. “It will not encourage any businesses to come here. It will not reduce one class size in Clark County.”
Assemblyman Skip Daly, D-Sparks, said the mining industry has modernized and the state constitution has not kept up.
The state won’t lose mining jobs because the minerals are here,” he said.
Constitutional amendments have to be approved by the Legislature twice before they can be put to the voters on the ballot. It previously passed the Legislature in the 2011 session.
The Nevada Mining Association has vigorously opposed the measure this session.
Nevada Mining Association lobbyists Tim Crowley and Jim Wadhams have told legislators that passage of the resolution could backfire and lead to mining paying less in taxes than it now pays.
Crowley said the association is disappointed with the vote.
“Passage of SJR15 will lead to significantly less state revenue to fund essential services and potentially disrupt revenue streams in rural mining counties as well. There’s no certainty if, how or when these revenues will be restored.”
The debate ahead of the 2014 vote is destined to be intense because passage could lead to additional mining taxes at a time when the economy is emerging from a recession that has cut into state revenues.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900.