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October 24, 2017

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Nevada Legislature 2013:

Conservative opposition to mining tax proposal not unanimous

After last week, the most unpopular people in the Nevada Legislature might be six Senate Republicans who proposed a tax on mining.

Members of their own party are even mocking the idea: Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, called it a "peanut brittle turd.” The proposal also received a chilly reception from Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

But although mining lobbyists might be happy to label these six Republicans a fringe group as isolated as a desert island, the tax proposal has enough purchase that it’s provoked dissension among conservative groups.

The board of the Keystone Corporation, a conservative political action organization, convened Tuesday as a divided organization.

"We have always rejected industry-specific taxes as bad public policy and detrimental to Nevada's economic development,” Keystone Chairman John Gibson said in a statement released Friday. “Just as we opposed initiatives that were being circulated last year to impose additional taxes on the gaming and mining industries, we reject current proposals to balance the state budget on the back of the mining industry.”

But members of the group also support the mining tax.

Keystone’s treasurer, businessman Monte Miller, was in Carson City trying to sell Roberson’s idea to Assembly Republicans and Sandoval the same day Gibson released the statement condemning the tax idea.

(Miller also led the initiative petition to tax the mining and gaming industries last spring.)

Another member of the board said that the mining tax will definitely be discussed at the board meeting because Gibson released the statement without consulting all members.

Keystone gave campaign contributions to all six of the Republican senators who introduced the proposal last week.

“If these are people you support, let them give a pitch on it,” the Keystone member said. “Let them share their view.”

The six Republicans say the mining tax would go to voters as an alternative to the business margins tax already headed to the ballot in 2014.

With Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, at their helm, they said a mining tax would be much preferable to a tax on business revenue that would even tax unprofitable businesses.

None of the six Republicans have recanted their positions, and they say they’re not marginalized.

“Giving the people a choice when it comes to the ballot in 2014 is a reasonable proposal, and I think it will get more support than people are currently anticipating,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno. “I feel like I am on the right side of this issue, and I think that people are going to come toward us.”

Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, said in a press conference last week that voters in his district tell him all the time that mining does not pay its fair share.

Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, also said the mining tax is popular with the people.

“I took a practical approach on this one,” he said. “The margins tax is a disaster. We had to do something to offer an alternative to the voters. … People, for the most part, feel mining isn't paying taxes commensurate with what they are taking from the state. When you poll this issue, Democrats, Republicans, nonpartisans, it’s popular with all of them. That’s broad-based recognition that we need to address this.”

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