Posts Tagged ‘mining tax’

Teachers Union President “Excited” That Business Profits Tax Ballot Proposal Moving Forward

By Sean Whaley | 1:56 pm April 9th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The president of the powerful state teachers union said today she is “excited” that another labor organization, the AFL-CIO, plans to pursue a business profits tax initiative petition.

“It will be a big deal,” said Lynn Warne, head of the Nevada State Education Association. “We’re excited that Danny (Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO) has decided to move forward with this. Anything we can do about funding our schools adequately in this state is great.”

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

Warne did not say in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program that the teachers’ union will be throwing its weight behind the petition drive, however.

Thompson said last week his group will push forward to collect the 72,352 signatures by  November 13 to take the tax proposal to the 2013 Legislature. Lawmakers will have 40 days to approve the proposal or it will go to the voters in 2014. Lawmakers could also offer a competing tax proposal to appear on the ballot, but a two-thirds vote would be required to move any tax measure forward in the Legislature.

Thompson said the proposed tax, which would be assessed on net business profits in excess of $500,000 at a rate of 2 percent, has been projected by some analysts to bring in about $1 billion a year to the state general fund. The money would go to fund public and higher education. The initiative petition has not yet been filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun last week, Warne said the teachers union has not signed off on Thompson’s proposed tax petition because of concerns regarding the language. Warne said she supports in concept the effort by to raise money for schools.

The teachers union had indicated in January that it would sign on to the tax proposal.

In the NewsMakers interview, Warne said 2014 could be a major election year in Nevada with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval up for re-election and a business profits tax measure on the ballot as well.

Sandoval has moved “a bit in the direction of needing to keep our education budgets whole,” she said. But Sandoval’s plan to continue a package of taxes set to sunset on June 30, 2013 into the next budget to avoid further cuts to education is inadequate, Warne said.

“We’re still at funding levels that are lower than the 2003 funding for the education budget, so no, it’s not enough and I think the governor would acknowledge that as well,” she said. “But it’s going to help.”

Warne said the two competing tax measures being pushed by Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller, one seeking to give the Legislature the authority to raise the mining tax and a second that would increase the gaming tax on the state’s largest casinos, are being pursued to confuse voters about the business tax proposal.

“Mining and gaming are the low hanging fruit in this state in terms of targets for tax increases,” she said. “And so Monte has picked those. There are a lot of questions as to his sincerity as to whether or not he would want to see those move forward. He has even made comments that should gaming try and strangle Danny’s effort then he will back off his gaming initiatives.”

Warne said the association has never had any discussions with Miller regarding his two petitions.


Audio clips:

NSEA President Lynn Warne says the association is excited the AFL-CIO is moving forward with a business profits tax:

040912Warne1 :13 adequately is great.”

Warne says Sandoval’s plan to continue the sunsetting taxes isn’t enough but it will help:

040912Warne2 :18 going to help.”

Warne says there are questions as to whether Monte Miller is sincere about his tax petitions:

040912Warne3 :18 those move forward.”

Nevada Political Consultant Warns Against Setting Tax Policy At The Ballot Box

By Sean Whaley | 3:46 pm February 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Long-time political consultant and former state lawmaker Pete Ernaut said today that efforts to use the ballot box to set tax policy could handcuff the ability of the governor and Legislature to make critical decisions on the future of the state.

“It should be warning to everybody because this is something that could very rapidly turn into the next iteration of the California ballot, where we have 10, 12, 13 ballot measures on a number of issues and you wake up one day and really you’ve taken the power away from the Legislature or the governor to make any decisions,” he said.

Political consultant Pete Ernaut.

“And that’s really what they’re struggling with in California more than anything else is you have this entire apparatus in the California state Legislature that essentially has the ability to make decisions on about 5 percent or 6 percent of the entire California budget,” Ernaut said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show. “If we’re not careful, that’s the way that it will go.”

Ernaut’s comments were in response to a question about the possibility of several tax proposals qualifying for the state ballot in the next few election cycles. Ernaut is president of government and public affairs with R&R Partners.

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller is pursing two initiative petitions, one to raise the gaming tax rate on the state’s largest casinos, and another to amend the state constitution to permit the tax rate on the mining industry to be increased.

Miller said he is pursing the tax proposals to ensure there are some options on the table for policy makers if state labor and education leaders move forward with a Texas-style margin tax on business to increase funding for education. No such petition has been filed yet with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.

Ernaut acknowledged that there is an undercurrent of frustration regarding Nevada’s current tax policy, with gaming and mining questioning the fairness and balance of the system, and some in the business community in turn concerned they are being pressured by the gaming and mining industries.

Nevada’s improving economy could help defuse the intensity of the tax debate and allow for a more measured, methodical and thoughtful discussion of what the state’s tax structure should look like down the road, “rather than with a pistol to somebody’s forehead, which is what it seems like it’s been,” he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval also spoke out recently in opposition to the tax-related ballot measures, saying those discussions belong in the Legislature.

“I believe initiative petitions are a poor way to set tax policy,” Sandoval said.

But Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, who first mentioned the possibility of a business tax ballot proposal in November 2011, said at the time it is the Legislature’s inability to make tax decisions that has generated the interest in going directly to the voters instead.

Nevada has a two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to increase taxes or fees.

“We are looking seriously at this process because the legislative process is an impossible one,” he said. “With the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, what in effect that does – it has the minority control the majority wishes. You cannot solve the problem at the Legislature alone without some help from the people.”


Audio clips:

Long-time political consultant Pete Ernaut warns against setting tax policy at the ballot box:

022712Ernaut1 :23 make any decisions.”

Ernaut says the California Legislature is handcuffed because of the numerous ballot measures approved by voters:

022712Ernaut2 :15 it will go.”

Ernaut says an improving Nevada economy could help lower the intensity level of the tax policy debate:

022712Ernaut3 :19 like it’s been.”


Sandoval Opposes Tax Petitions, Says Revenue Discussions Belong At Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 3:12 pm February 10th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he opposes the initiative petitions filed by Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller to raise gaming and mining tax rates.

“I believe initiative petitions are a poor way to set tax policy,” Sandoval said when asked about the measures that could eventually go before Nevada voters. “I’ve advised Mr. Miller, who is a friend, that I do, respectfully, oppose the petitions.

“For an issue of that import I think it is critical that it would be debated at the legislative level and not be of the initiative petition process,” he said.

Graphic from Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

Sandoval, who has opposed tax increases generally because of a desire to keep Nevada a friendly state for business creation and job development, said he would not object to a tax policy discussion at the 2013 legislative session, which is now less than a year away.

Using the initiative process, which requires voter approval, takes decisions about tax policy out of the hands of the governor and Legislature.

Miller said he has filed the two initiative petitions to ensure there are alternatives to a Texas-style margin tax that is expected to be filed by labor and education groups to raise additional money for public education.

The margin tax proposal is expected to be headed up by Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, but no such measure has been filed yet with the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We are looking seriously at this process because the legislative process is an impossible one,” Thompson said in an interview in November 2011. “With the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, what in effect that does – it has the minority control the majority wishes. You cannot solve the problem at the Legislature alone without some help from the people.”

Nevada has a two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.

Miller last week filed a petition to amend the state constitution to allow the cap on mining taxes to be increased from 5 percent to 9 percent. If approved by voters, this proposal would actually leave the decision on whether to raise the tax rate in the hands of the governor and Legislature.

On Tuesday Miller filed his petition to change state law to raise the tax rate on the state’s biggest casinos from 6.75 percent to 9 percent. If approved by voters, the increase would take effect in 2015 and could not be changed by the Legislature for at least three years. The practical effect of this constitutional provision would be that the Legislature could not change the tax rate for at least two sessions of the Legislature.

Casinos with revenues of more than $250,000 a month would be subject to the higher tax rate under Miller’s proposal.

It is not easy to qualify a measure for the ballot in Nevada.

For a constitutional amendment, which would have to be approved by voters twice before it could take effect, supporters would need to collect 72,352 valid signatures by June 19. It would appear on the November 2012 ballot.

For a change to state law, supporters would need to gather the same number of signatures by Nov. 13 to send the proposal to the Nevada Legislature in 2013. If the Legislature did not enact the proposal, it would go to voters in 2014 and take effect in 2015 if approved. The Legislature could also opt to put a competing proposal on the ballot for voters to consider.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he opposes using the initiative petition process to address tax policy:

021012Sandoval1 :11 oppose the petitions.”

Sandoval says tax policy should be debated at the Legislature:

021012Sandoval2 :09 initiative petition process.”


Gaming Tax Hike Sought As Alternative To Possible Margin Tax Ballot Measure

By Sean Whaley | 1:25 pm February 8th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller said today he is seeking a hike in the gaming tax for the state’s largest casinos to offer the Legislature and voters one more revenue option in the face of a possible Texas-style margin tax that could appear on the ballot.

Even at the proposed 9 percent rate on net casino gambling revenue above $250,000 per calendar month, Nevada would have the lowest effective tax rate in the world, he said in a telephone interview today.

Slot machine / Photo by Jeff Kubina @ Wikimedia Commons

Under current law, net casino gambling revenue in excess of $134,000 per calendar month is taxed at a 6.75 percent rate.

Miller, through a group called Nevadans for a Fair 9% Gambling Revenue Tax (NF9GRT) on Tuesday filed a statutory initiative petition with the Nevada Secretary of State that would create the new, higher rate.

The proposal, along with another to provide for a possible increase in the mining tax filed last week, are meant to providing voters and policy-makers with options in light of an anticipated ballot proposal from Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, to create a 2 percent margin tax based on the Texas model to provide increased funding for public education. Thompson could not be reached for comment on the status of his expected tax proposal.

Thompson and the other groups expected to support the margin tax ballot measure have not yet filed an initiative petition with the Secretary of State’s office, but Miller said there is plenty of time to do so.

If you look at Texas, and what they’re going through with the Texas margins tax, which is the template for what Mr. Thompson is doing, it’s a destructive, terribly complex tax,” he said. “And you couldn’t have a worse income tax in your state. And so we think the people of Nevada need an alternative.

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller.

“This would be the first income tax in the state of  Nevada,” Miller said. “We’ve got to give people a choice.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, wrote an article this week calling the tax unfair to small business and an “abject failure,” in Texas.

Miller said a 9 percent rate is a fair tax rate for the biggest casino operations. The number that surprised him comes from Indiana, where that state collected nearly $875 million in taxes from 11 casinos in 2010. Nevada collected $835 million in 2010, he said.

Indiana’s tax rates go from 15 percent to 40 percent.

“We’re not asking for 15 percent, we’re saying 9 percent, (it) still would be the lowest in the world, the lowest effective tax rate in the world,” he said.

“This initiative represents a 33 percent tax increase on the gaming industry, which would be reckless and irresponsible,” Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said in an email to the Associated Press. “We are currently reviewing the language. If this effort is indeed legitimate, we will oppose it vigorously.”

Miller said the proposal is not a tax on all casino revenue.

“If our initiative becomes law, it will not increase taxes on room rates, shows, shopping or restaurants in casinos,” he said. “Nor would it increase taxes on small casinos, taverns or convenience stores.

“Nevada’s individuals and small businesses are overtaxed,” Miller said. “By fairly taxing the billions of dollars that big casinos win from high-rolling gamblers, we can lower taxes and fees on individuals and small businesses who are struggling during these tough economic times.”

The group will have to collect 72,352 valid signatures from Nevada voters by Nov. 13 to send the proposal to the Nevada Legislature in 2013. If the Legislature did not enact the proposal, it would go to voters in 2014 and take effect in 2015 if approved. The Legislature could also opt to put a competing proposal on the ballot for voters to consider.


Audio clips:

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller says a Texas-style margins tax would be destructive in Nevada:

020812Miller1 :26 in your state.”

Miller says even at 9 percent, the top gaming tax rate would be the lowest in the world:

020812Miller2 :10 in the world.”

State Senate Majority Leader Requests Emergency Bill To Audit Tax Department

By Sean Whaley | 11:02 am March 14th, 2011

(Updated at 2:12 p.m. on March 14, 2011 to include new comments from Sandoval Administration)

CARSON CITY – Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has requested emergency legislation to conduct a performance audit of the revenue collection functions of the Department of Taxation following questions last week about the thoroughness of the agency’s review of mining tax payments.

“We were told by the head of the Tax Department that they haven’t had properly trained individuals in place for two years on the net proceeds – that’s a major problem,” he said. “I am glad that the governor is going to immediately try to address that but the question then becomes what else isn’t being properly audited at a time when we have a $2.5 billion budget hole.”

Sen. Steven Horsford/
Photo: Cathleen Allison/

Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is working with Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, the chairwoman of the Legislative Commission’s Audit Subcommittee and Chairwoman of the Senate Revenue Committee, on the precise language for the bill.

A number of the members of the Senate Revenue Committee expressed concern at a hearing Thursday when former Tax Department Executive Director Dino DiCianno told the panel that his agency has not had trained auditors to review the net proceeds of minerals tax reports submitted by mining companies, “for a couple of years.”

This at the same time gold prices have reached record levels.

Horsford asked DiCianno if he had informed former Gov. Jim Gibbons about the lack of trained auditors to review mining deductions claimed under the law, which are self reported by the companies.

DiCianno replied he had not, and that maybe he should have informed the governor.

The following day, DiCianno submitted his resignation to Gov. Brian Sandoval effective immediately.

In announcing DiCianno’s departure, Sandoval also named Deputy Director Chris Nielsen to lead the agency until the governor can appoint a successor. Sandoval asked Nielsen to begin preparing a full transition plan, including an immediate strategy to resume auditing mine operators to ensure the proper payment of the net proceeds of minerals tax. Sandoval has also directed the state Internal Audit Division to assist the Department of Taxation as it resumes the net proceeds audits.

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga today said at a press briefing the governor has instructed the interim tax agency director to determine when the last mining audits were performed, which operators were audited and whether any deficiencies were identified.

The information will then be presented at a special meeting of the Tax Commission set for March 21. Sandoval may also call the Executive Branch Audit Committee together to consider evaluating other revenue sources collected by the Tax Department.

Erquiaga said there is at least one audit of a mining operator that the Tax Department is aware of. The Tax Department is required to conduct random audits so it is not clear if the 100 mining operators in the state could all be reviewed right away, he said.

Sandoval in his proposed budget made only a minor reduction in the agency funding to ensure it could effectively collect tax revenue, Erquiaga said.

“It’s bad management practice in the last administration to allow two years to go by without an audit,” Erquiaga said. “We want an explanation from the staff. We’re going to work with them to be sure going forward that doesn’t happen.”

Horsford said he does not know if the tax deductions claimed by the mining industry over the past few years are legitimate or not. The audit being requested will help answer that question, as well as whether audits of other revenues owed to the state are also being handled appropriately by the agency, he said.

“I was a little concerned about the fact that we’ve had increased revenues from mining, but also increased deductions,” he said. “So the tax payments are down.”

Horsford said the state needs to make sure the reporting is accurate.

“It’s obviously a top priority,” he said.

Leslie said one major focus will clearly be the auditing of the net proceeds of mines.

“This is a direct result of the testimony at the Revenue Committee last week which seemed to shock everyone,” she said. “That at a time when the price of gold is at record highs, we have not been auditing. And I think many of us are concerned about the whole idea of self reporting.”

The huge mining corporations likely have the best tax attorneys available to ensure they take advantage of every “loophole” in claiming exemptions from the mining tax, Leslie said.

“I’m sure they have been looking very closely at how to minimize their tax obligations, and that’s not illegal,” she said. “Right now it seems very one-sided on behalf of the mining companies.”

Leslie said she has questions about whether the mining exemptions have possibly been expanded over the years through the regulatory process that the Legislature may not be fully aware of.

The state has to ensure the exemptions are appropriate and the state is collecting all that is owed, she said.

“We’re outgunned to begin with,” Leslie said. “But the idea that we have nobody and haven’t had anybody looking at that for the last two years is preposterous. We need to be armed with our experts and right now we are unarmed.”

The mining industry has been a major target of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers already in the 2011 session. Some lawmakers have suggested the mining industry can afford to pay more in taxes and lessen the severity of cuts to education and state programs proposed in Sandoval’s $5.8 billion general fund budget.

Leslie said she wants to look at the multiple exemptions the mining industry can take on the minerals tax paid to the state and county governments and whether they are still appropriate, particularly the changes made in 1989.

Audio clips:

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford says the Tax Department has not been properly auditing the net proceeds tax:

031411Horsford1 :11 a major problem.”

Horsford says the question is what else has not been audited:

031411Horsford2 : 15 $2.5 billion budget hole.”

Horsford says mining revenues are up but tax payments are down:

031411Horsford3 :21 payments are down.”

Sen. Sheila Leslie says the bill request is a direct result of the shocking testimony last week:

031411Leslie1 :25 idea of self-reporting.”

Leslie says she is certain that mining companies are taking every tax deduction they can:

031114Leslie2 :13 that’s not illegal.”

Leslie says the state is outgunned in the auditing process:

031411Leslie3 :30 years is preposterous.”

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga says it was bad management practice by the Gibbons Administration not to audit mining companies:

031411Erquiaga :11 that doesn’t happen.”

Efforts By Citizens To Access November Ballot End In Failure

By Sean Whaley | 5:05 am June 16th, 2010

CARSON CITY – One proposal sought to increase mining taxes and another wanted to define life as beginning at conception. A third would have required secret ballots for employee votes on whether to join a union and yet another would have given Nevada residents the right to reject participation in government backed health care.

But none of these citizen-backed proposals to amend the Nevada state constitution will be on the ballot come November. Legal challenges, the cost and time required to circulate petitions and other factors have led to all such measures ending in failure this election cycle.

Yesterday was the deadline for groups to turn in the nearly 100,000 signatures needed to qualify constitutional amendments for the ballot.

The only group to come close, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, announced Monday it would fall short of the number of signatures needed to ask voters to consider increasing the mining tax.

Jan Gilbert, northern Nevada coordinator for PLAN, said a legal challenge by the well-financed Nevada mining industry did hurt the group’s efforts. The effort was also made more complex by the 2009 Legislature by requiring signatures to be collected in the state’s three congressional districts, she said.

In Clark County, where all three of Nevada’s representatives have constituents, signature gatherers had to determine which of three petitions to use for each registered voter, Gilbert said.

The process shouldn’t be so easy that voters have to consider 20 or 30 ballot questions every two years, but it should be fair, she said.

Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen, who has in the past argued in court in support of several constitutional amendment efforts, said the process is intentionally designed by the Legislature to thwart the public’s will.

“They don’t want the people to have this input,” he said. “They have been hostile to the process.”

Hansen, who advocated for an initiative petition to impose a spending limitation on state government four years ago, said the process is set up to allow expensive legal challenges by opponents. Most citizen groups can’t afford to fight such legal challenges, and if they do and they win, any funds to collect signatures are then depleted, he said.

“The right of ordinary people to do this has essentially been destroyed by the Legislature’s burdensome requirements,” Hansen said.

The TASC measure to limit the growth of state government to inflation and population growth was kicked off the ballot by the Nevada Supreme Court after supporters had won in district court, he said. Hansen, who argued to put the measure on the ballot, said a typographical error was cited as the reason by the Supreme Court to not let it go to the voters.

The court in its ruling said the error was significant and not just a minor typo.

Hansen said such rulings frustrate the will of the voters who clearly want the measures qualified for the ballot.

Since the Legislature is unwilling to simplify the process, the only answer may be an initiative petition by the people to amend the state constitution to reform the process for placing such measures on the ballot, he said.

“It’s very discouraging,” he said. “I have not been involved in any of these this year because nobody has the heart for it anymore.”

Hansen, a candidate for attorney general with the Independent American Party, said he would work if elected to advocate for the public’s right to access the ballot.

“Whatever I can do from that position, I will do it,” he said.

Gilbert said another challenge for PLAN was the requirement for nearly 100,000 signatures, a significant number resulting from the strong turnout in the 2008 presidential election. The signature requirement in other years can be much lower depending on turnout at the prior general election.

A challenge to the mining tax proposal was just argued in front of the Nevada Supreme Court earlier this month. Gilbert said she does not know if a ruling will be forthcoming now that the group has not filed its signatures.

The legal challenge by the Nevada Mining Association could only be contested by PLAN with the help of attorneys who worked for free, she said.

Gilbert said PLAN believes the petition effort has laid the groundwork for the Legislature to consider mining tax increases in the 2011 session.

If a citizen-backed constitutional amendment does make it on the ballot, it must be approved twice before it can take effect. The Legislature can place such amendments on the ballot after approving them in two consecutive legislative sessions.

The process is equally complex for citizens who want to change an existing state law rather than amend the constitution, but the time frame to collect signatures is longer. Several such petitions are circulating, including one by Gov. Jim Gibbons to open up the public employee negotiating process to the open meeting law. The deadline for signatures for these measures is Nov. 9.

Audio files

Jan Gilbert of PLAN says there are obstacles to petition drives in Nevada:

061510Gilbert1 :14 get those signatures.”

Gilbert says initiative process shouldn’t be too easy but should be fair:

061510Gilbert2 :16 that is achievable.”

Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen says Legislature has intentionally made petition process difficult:

061510Hansen1 :22 having this voice.”

Hansen says Nevada Supreme Court has frustrated will of people:

061510Hansen2 :20 think we will.”

Initiative Petition Deadline Looms, Groups Have Until June 15 To Qualify Measures For November Ballot

By Sean Whaley | 2:25 pm June 4th, 2010

CARSON CITY – While voters and political observers are focused on the Tuesday primary, Nevadans seeking access to the November ballot for measures they are pushing to amend the state Constitution have another key date in mind.

June 15 is the deadline for groups pushing their amendments to turn in the nearly 100,000 signatures they need to qualify the measures for the ballot. There are three initiative petitions to amend the state constitution still active, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

The only constitutional measure that is certain to see signatures turned in to the clerks of the state’s 17 counties by the deadline is one seeking to increase the mining tax.

“We’re continuing our collection efforts and we’re getting close,” said Jan Gilbert, Northern Nevada coordinator of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. “I’m always optimistic.”

Gilbert said she does not know the precise number of signatures collected so far because the more than 300 volunteers doing the work have not all turned in their petitions yet. The collection effort is continuing even as the group faces yet another court challenge to the proposal before the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday.

The measure would change the Nevada constitution to require the mining industry to pay taxes on no less than 5 percent of the gross proceeds rather than no more than 5 percent of the net proceeds, on their mineral extraction efforts.

The status of two other measures, one aimed at ensuring employees have the right to vote in secret when deciding to join a union, and another explicitly mandating secret voting in all elections, could not be determined when calls were not returned.

One other measure, the Personhood petition to define life as beginning at conception, lost a challenge in Nevada District Court. The Nevada Supreme Court has not yet ruled on an appeal. The group did not respond to an inquiry about whether the signature gathering process is still under way.

Several other measures have been withdrawn by the proponents.

Other active measures to change state law, such as a proposal by Gov. Jim Gibbons to subject public employee labor discussions to the open meeting law, have a different deadline.

Gilbert said PLAN is pushing for the change to Nevada’s mining tax law because of a belief the industry is not paying enough in taxes, especially now that gold is valued at more than $1,200 an ounce. If the PLAN proposal was in effect in 2008, for example, mining companies would have paid $284.4 million in taxes to state and local governments instead of the $91.8 million that was paid by the industry.

The proposal will see its second challenge from the Nevada Mining Association on Monday, when the Nevada Supreme Court considers whether it violates a requirement that such petitions deal only with a single subject. The court will also consider whether the petition is a proper use of the initiative process.

Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association, said the key issue before the court is whether the petition is proper because it directs the Legislature to take certain actions regarding the mining tax.

“We do believe the initiative is flawed in several ways,” he said. “What they are calling for in the initiative is to force the Legislature to change law, and in our opinion you can’t bind a Legislature to do anything.”

Crowley said the proposal, if approved by voters, would be crippling to the mining industry, particularly for the geothermal industry and those operations providing materials to the construction industry.

“Those businesses cannot endure that type of a tax,” he said. “So it is something that causes us great concern.”

Crowley also noted that the measure would not do anything to solve the state’s current budget problems, since it would have to be approved by voters twice, this year and again in 2012, before it could take effect.

“Our primary focus is fixing today’s fiscal issues,” he said.

Gilbert said the legal challenges are just another attempt by the well-funded mining industry to derail the measure and prevent voters from having their say.

“It’s hard to fight such a well-funded effort,” she said. “We’re hopeful on the Supreme Court case as well.”

A ruling against the PLAN initiative would remove it from the ballot whether the group had gathered enough signatures or not.

Following the submission of the signatures to county clerks, a verification process begins to determine if there are enough names or registered voters to qualify. Petitions require 97,002 signatures from the state’s three Congressional districts. A check is then made to assess whether enough of the signatures are from valid registered voters.

If all the requirements are met, a measure would be qualified for the November general election ballot.

Audio Clips:

060410Gilbert1 :09 make that deadline.”

060410Crowley1 :31 the ballot initiative.”

060410Crowley2 :23 the geothermal industry.”