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Amodei reluctant to back Hutchison for lieutenant governor

Updated Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 | 2:13 p.m.

As state Sen. Mark Hutchison works to wrap up Republican support in his bid for lieutenant governor, his wholehearted support of a proposal to increase mining taxes is hurting him with at least one elected Republican.

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei's name was noticeably absent from a recent fundraiser invitation that went out listing support from most of the state's top elected Republican officials, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and U.S. Rep. Joe Heck.

In a brief interview today, Amodei, who represents Nevada's rural northern counties where the mining industry is dominant, said he's not exactly disposed to jump on Hutchison's team.

"I do owe him a phone call," Amodei said. "But I really need to see what he would do to reach out to the mining industry after the last session, which was definitely not friendly to mining."

Hutchison was one of six Republican senators who promoted a measure now before voters to remove the mining industry's tax protections from the state constitution. Hutchison also supported a failed proposal to put a second ballot question before voters that would have increased the mining industry's taxes to help pay for education.

Hutchison argued at the time that a wide swath of Republican and Democratic voters believe the industry does not pay enough into state coffers compared to the revenue it makes off of the minerals mined in Nevada.

In a prepared statement, Hutchison said his primary motivation for proposing the mining tax increase was finding a means to defeat the margins tax initiative on the ballot next year. If offered a choice, Hutchison believed voters would have chosen to tax mining rather than all businesses.

"I believe the margins tax would be devastating to Nevada's economy," Hutchison said. "Also, I believe we needed to provide an alternative to defeat the margins tax. Absent the margins tax, I would not have even discussed the mining tax. I've had great conversations with the mining industry and I've received a warm welcome to this race by rural Nevadans. I look forward to earning each and every vote as I campaign across Nevada."

During the legislative session, Hutchison expressed antipathy for the margins tax, but he also argued the mining industry isn't paying enough in taxes.

"We have companies coming into this state, taking out non-renewable resources to the tune of $9 billion, and just are not paying the amount they should be paying to benefit all Nevadans," Hutchison said in April.

Nor has Hutchison exactly backed off of his desire to explore a mining tax increase since announcing for lieutenant governor.

"I think that we have to look very carefully at that," he said. "When you compare the gross revenue with gaming and mining they are pretty close and then when you compare their tax rates on their gross, gaming paying three times more. I just think we need to take a look at that and provide Nevadans with benefit of companies taking non-renewable resources out of our ground to the tune of billions of dollars a year and making sure they are returning a very valuable asset to Nevada."

Sandoval has led the effort to help Hutchison win enough support to help dissuade any other Republican from entering the lieutenant governor's race. But the effort may not be successful.

Former state Sen. Sue Lowden, also a Republican, announced earlier this month she is seriously exploring the race.

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