Businessman files measure to raise cap on mining taxes

CARSON CITY, Nev. - A conservative businessman filed a proposed constitutional amendment Tuesday to raise the cap on Nevada mining taxes to 9 percent of net proceeds, up from the current 5 percent, in the first of two or three expected tax proposals that could end up on the November ballot.

The initiative filed by Monte Miller doesn't require the mining tax to be raised, but would allow the Legislature to increase the rate that for decades has been limited by protections in the state constitution.

Miller is on the board of the Keystone Corp., a conservative, pro-business group that opposes business taxes and does not support Miller's effort.

"This is Monte Miller," he said.

Miller also serves on the board of directors of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, which had no immediate position on the initiative.

Taxes paid by mining companies on minerals are capped at 5 percent of net proceeds, and amounts are calculated after deductions for the cost of extraction and other business expenses.

"This is about fairness," Miller said in a phone interview. "I think the 5 percent is a 20th century cap," he said. "This is about mining being at the table."

Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association, said the industry has stepped up to the plate in years past. Mining, he said, supported the modified business tax approved in 2002 that all businesses pay and supported higher sales and payroll taxes approved in 2009.

Last session, the industry agreed to eliminate some deductions from the net proceeds tax, amounting to $24 million a year.

"Perhaps he forgets these things because he was not present and did not participate in those discussions and resolutions," Crowley said.

Miller's initiative would need more than 72,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot. Voters would have to approve it in November and again in 2014 to take effect.

The move comes as a union-backed effort is under way for an initiative to create a business tax in Nevada. That measure, being organized by a coalition led by Nevada AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Danny Thompson, has not yet been filed with the secretary of state but is being modeled after a proposed margins tax on businesses pushed by Democrats in the 2011 session that failed to gather any Republican support needed for passage.

But representatives of the Nevada Mining Industry and the powerful Nevada Resort Association, which represents large casino resorts, testified they would support efforts to broaden Nevada's tax structure that is heavily reliant on sales and casino taxes.

Miller said he plans another initiative to raise casino taxes. "That's coming," he said.

The mining industry is a frequent target for new revenue when Nevada's economy tanks, and such was the case during last year's session as gold prices soared.

The industry agreed to give up some tax deductions and a new oversight panel was created.

Miller said as gold prices escalate as they have in the past few years - it closed at more than $1,700 per ounce Tuesday - then mining concerns should pay more.

"The tax formula should go up as well," he said.

"If gold goes to $2,000 or $3,000 in the next decade, as their margins increase, why shouldn't the people of Nevada get a fair share of that," Miller said.

Lawmakers last year also approved a proposed amendment to abolish mining's constitutional protections. That measure would also be on the 2014 ballot if legislators pass it again next year.


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