Backer drops tax initiatives

Conservative Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller backed off ballot initiatives to raise taxes on Nevada mining and casino companies Tuesday, citing the perceived lack of organizational support for a competing measure pushed by the AFL-CIO to impose a business margins tax for his decision.

"The Nevada AFL-CIO has clearly failed to build broad-based support for its ballot initiative," said Miller, who filed his own proposed measures earlier this year as a counterpunch to the business tax plan that has yet to be filed with the secretary of state's office.

Miller said even if the union measure is filed, "I am now confident ... they will not have the broad-based support they need to win voter approval."

Miller was the driving force behind two groups, Nevadans United for Fair Mining Taxes and Nevadans for a Fair 9 percent Gambling Revenue Tax. The first proposed a constitutional amendment to raise the cap paid by mining companies on net proceeds of minerals from 5 percent to 9 percent. The second measure would have increased to 9 percent from 6.75 percent the top tax rate paid by casinos on income from wagers, and would have applied to casinos earning more than $250,000 a month in gambling revenue.

During legislative hearings last year, representatives of the mining and casino industries said they supported the concept of a broad-based business tax to stabilize Nevada's tax base that is prone to volatile economic swings. Both industries are frequent revenue targets when the state's economy falters.

But those industries have been silent on the business margins plan being formulated by the AFL-CIO, and the Nevada State Education Association has not endorsed it.

Danny Thompson, AFL-CIO secretary treasurer, said Tuesday that the margins tax initiative will be filed.

"We still plan to go through with ours," he said. "We've got plenty of time."

Organizers will need to collect about 73,000 signatures by mid-November to send the business tax plan to the 2013 Legislature. If it advances that far and lawmakers fail either to approve it or take action within 40 days, it would be put to voters on the 2014 ballot.

Thompson said he doesn't need financial backing to collect signatures.

"I can qualify this thing internally," he said. "For us it isn't that big a deal. If you talk about running a campaign, that wouldn't happen for almost two years."

In withdrawing his measures, Miller also said he was encouraged by Gov. Brian Sandoval's early pronouncement to extend temporary taxes in his next budget cycle to avoid more cuts to education, and Sen. Michael Roberson's statement Tuesday that he would lead the tax debate in next year's session.

"In light of all these developments, we no longer see the need to put a mining tax cap initiative or a gaming tax hike initiative on the ballot," Miller said.

Roberson, R-Las Vegas, was among a handful of conservative lawmakers who voted last year against the budget and opposed the extension of $620 million in temporary taxes to fund it after a Nevada Supreme Court ruling raised legal doubt about the governor's initial funding sources.

Roberson has since embraced extending those same taxes for another two years.


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