Special session: Mining agrees to fee hikes; resorts say no dice | NevadaAppeal.com

Special session: Mining agrees to fee hikes; resorts say no dice

BRIAN DUGGAN
bduggan@nevadaappeal.com

While the Nevada gaming industry told senators on Friday it could not handle more fees to help balance an $888 million budget shortfall, the head of the Nevada Mining Association said they’re on board to help raise $100 million.

Tim Crowley, the president of the Nevada Mining Association, said his organization will support a new fee on mining claims to raise about $25 million, helping to close an $888 million budget gap. He added the industry wants the fee to be temporary.

The mining deal, publicly addressed for the first time on Friday, would include

$20 million in prepaid taxes.

But the biggest chunk of revenue from the mining industry, about $50 million to $60 million, would come from new tax revenue as a result of rising gold prices. Gold was $1,117 per ounce on Friday.

After emerging from a meeting with lawmakers Friday evening, Gov. Jim Gibbons said he would not support the new fee despite the mining association’s

support.

“The tax increase on mining, which some people want to do, that’s a huge sticking point with me,” Gibbons said, “even if mining says they will do it, because not all miners belong to that one small organization. So what I want to make sure is we’re able to balance this budget without raising taxes.”

The Nevada Mining Association has 300 members, including some of the largest mining companies operating in Nevada, such as Barrick Gold Corporation and Newmont.

Gibbons said the $50 million or more raised by unexpected new revenues would be enough.

Earlier on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford gave a floor speech calling on Nevada’s industries to contribute more to help solve the state’s budget crisis.

“The West and Nevada wouldn’t have been developed without massive investment and tax breaks provided by taxpayers,” Horsford said, imploring companies “pay their fair share.”

He added that while the economy is down, there are sectors that are doing well, including mining, banking and insurance.

But late Thursday, the Nevada Resort Association told lawmakers that they would not accept $32.5 million in new fees.

Billy Vassiliadis, a lobbyist for the resort association, told lawmakers on Friday his industry could not sustain new fees after $6.7 billion in losses last year and nearly 35,000 layoffs.

“We’re not here to say no, we’re here to provide information on how damaging new fees on the industry could be,” Vassiliadis said.

Other industry groups came to the Senate on Friday, including chambers of commerce, retail and manufacturing associations, telling lawmakers that new fees in a down economy would hurt business.

But Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, told the industry groups that they must come up with better solutions than saying no to new fees.

“No is not a plan, taxing the world is not a plan,” Townsend said. “Plans are made by reasonable and rational people … now if you’re not willing to commit to that, then our time today has been wasted for all

of us.”