Sunday, April 8, 2012 | 2 a.m.
CARSON CITY -- The conservative Las Vegas businessman who proposed ballot initiatives targeting the gaming and mining industries is ready to make a deal.
As a separate effort to pass a $1 billion business tax gasps for breath, Monte Miller said he would drop his initiatives if the industries he’s targeting — mining and gaming — pledge not to support the union-led effort to tax business profits.
“If the margins tax goes away, I’ll rethink these things,” Miller told me last week. “I’m opened-eared on this. I’m trying to hear what they’re doing.”
He said he has reached out to representatives of the gaming and mining industries and offered this deal: “If they don’t support it, they have to come out and say they won’t support it financially,” he said.
The AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor union, has been working on a proposed 2 percent business profits tax, with the money earmarked for education. But the teachers union, a key ally in any tax increase effort, is withholding its support over a dispute over the legal language of the petition, which has not yet been filed.
The deep-pocketed gaming and mining industries have been mute about the proposal.
Still, Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said this week that he planned to collect the 73,000 signatures required to put it in front of the Legislature in 2013 and, assuming it fails there, on the ballot in 2014.
Miller, who has helped fund the campaigns of the last two Republican governors, conservative lawmakers and conservative advocacy groups, surprised many by sponsoring tax initiatives targeting the state’s two most powerful industries. He has been known as an anti-tax crusader of sorts.
But he has since 2003 led a group of non-gaming and non-mining businessmen who have bristled at those industries’ efforts to institute a “broad-based business tax.” The fight began over then-Gov. Kenny Guinn’s gross receipts tax.
Miller’s initiatives, which he has filed with the Secretary of State, are the most direct attacks on the industries in decades.
His Nevadans for a Fair Gambling Revenue Tax would add a tier to the gaming tax for the state’s largest casino companies, raising their tax rate on gambling winnings from 6.75 percent to 9 percent.
Nevadans United for Fair Mining Taxes would start the process to amend the constitution, which sets the mining tax. It would allow the Legislature to almost double the tax on mines from the current 5 percent.
Both face court challenges, though the mining initiative won a significant victory last month and the gaming tax is scheduled for a hearing this week .
Since he filed the initiatives, political insiders have speculated about whether Miller would follow through with the onerous, expensive process of fending off legal challenges and hiring signature-gatherers to qualify the initiatives for the ballot.
Indeed, Miller said his aim wasn’t to increase government funding, rather he said that he wanted to give voters an alternative to a broad-based business tax increase that appeared destined for the ballot.
Miller this week said his primary goal is to prevent Nevada from adopting a corporate income tax.
“From the very beginning, I’ve said these are alternatives to Mr. Thompson’s initiatives,” he said. “Being one of three states without an income tax makes us more attractive to business.”
The Nevada Mining Association and Nevada Resort Association did not return calls for comment.