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On the ballot

In a Monday e-mail, Bob Fulkerson, chief of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, told supporters the group wouldn’t be able to gather the 97,000-plus signatures required to put a proposed mining tax hike on the 2010 ballot.

“The number of signatures required, 97,000, based on voter turn-out in 2008, was unprecedented,” Mr. Fulkerson said. “Additionally, the mining industry and other anti-initiative forces succeeded in the last legislative session in adding complicated hurdles to the signature-gathering process.”

The petition, called the Nevada Fair Mining Tax Initiative, would have asked voters to change the tax on net mining proceeds to a tax on gross proceeds. It also would have asked them to change the 5 percent cap on the net tax to a 5 percent floor on the gross.

PLAN — without saying how much of a resulting decline in mining they allowed for — claimed such a change could have generated hundreds of millions of dollars annually that could be used to support schools and other social services.

Mining industry leaders responded that the proposal represented a 300 percent tax increase that unfairly targeted one type of business and would have put miners out of work.

PLAN had until Tuesday to gather the necessary signatures. An April poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research showed 40 percent of likely Nevada voters supported the measure, with 37 percent opposed and 23 percent undecided.

There are two separate questions, here. The first is whether it’s wise to raise taxes on anyone, especially during a protracted recession.

In fact, the best way to restore economic prosperity is to slash taxes and government spending across the board.

The theory here seems to be that mining should pay more “because it can.” This doctrine — from each according to his ability — is core socialism. It presumes all profits from private endeavors, above what the investor needs to retain in order to eat canned beans, properly belong to the state. Why would entrepreneurs continue to risk the required piles of capital to create good-paying Nevada mining jobs, if others claim a right to appropriate an unlimited share of their hoped-for future profits?

But on the topic of how hard it should be to place such a proposal on the ballot, Mr. Fulkerson is correct. Arbitrary and obstructive requirements, designed to stymie the will of voters who opt to go to direct referendum, are wrong.

Regardless of the wisdom of the PLAN proposal (and this one stunk), it should not be made economically or logistically impossible to place such a question before voters. We welcome Mr. Fulkerson’s proposal for making it easier for all comers to place serious questions on the ballot.

 

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