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November 28, 2014

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LEGISLATURE 2013:

Twitter debates: Does the mining industry pay its fair share?

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Steve Marcus / FILE

A cable shovel dumps gold ore into a truck in Crescent Valley in September 2001. In Nevada, mining companies get a slew of tax deductions, including for equipment depreciation.

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The most common trope about Nevada’s mining industry might be that it doesn’t pay its fair share in taxes.

But when legislators examined a mining tax bill last week, they swarmed their legal counsel with questions that stemmed from confusion about what is fair and what is possible within the state’s constitution when it comes to taxing mining.

“I don’t understand,” one legislator said.

“I am confused,” another said.

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, later said that legislators “don’t play telephone well.”

“Somebody says something to one person, then it gets twisted around,” she said. “That’s common for this building. It’s our job to ask good questions.”

For supporters of Senate Joint Resolution 15, the bill is very simple: Mining has a special protection in the constitution, and that provision has to be removed so mining can pay its fair share in taxes.

“We are asking big business to pay their fair share, including mining,” said Mayra Ocampa, director of government relations for the Service Employees International Union of Nevada.

Meanwhile, the Nevada mining industry is saying the issue is complex and that the tax-mining-more crowd is getting it wrong.

“Wrong information does not become true simply because it is repeated loudly or frequently,” Newmont Mining lobbyist Jim Wadhams said at a recent legislative hearing. “This resolution before you is tax policy and should not just be done for political convenience. ... It’s time for some Nevada straight-talk. This is a very, very serious issue.”

So which is it? Simple or complex?

Does mining pay too little? Too much?

“I like to know the facts: What is it?” Kirkpatrick said.

As lawmakers debated the question in committee, advocates on either side of the issue took to Twitter to argue the merits of the bill.

Here we will take a look at the facts they used to justify their arguments. Your Twitter moderators are: On the pro-tax side, political consultant Billy Rogers; on the anti-tax side, mining lobbyist David Goldwater.

Let’s turn to Twitter:

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