Our state director Bob Fulkerson on how SJR15 came to be.
We at PLAN have been asked several times about what changed between 2010 and now that turned the tide against mining’s stranglehold on Nevada. Here’s some thoughts:
In 2009, PLAN tried to get some measly deductions removed from the industry but we were shut down handily. In 2010, we launched the Nevada Fair Mining Tax initiative that would have changed the constitutional cap from 5% net to 5% gross. But mining mounted a vigorous legal challenge, and ran out the clock before we could get enough signatures.
Meanwhile, the state is in the midst of a devastating recession, cutting $1 billion from education alone over a 5-year period. People saw mining and the rurals doing incredibly well. They wondered why the Legislature wouldn’t enact a tax higher than the 1 percent mining tax it paid to the general fund. And the answer was because mining was protected in the Nevada constitution. This concerned people in Clark County, who knew that whether the Strip boomed or lost money, schools in Elko and other mining towns would be funded by their dollars. Yet when mining did well (this year, mineral production exceeded $10 billion in Nevada), Clark County didn’t see many mining dollars at all.
In the 2011 session, Senate Revenue Chair Sheila Leslie and Majority Leader Steven Horsford held hearings on mining taxation. What came to light was the laundry list of deductions, coupled with the fact that the mining companies had rarely, if ever, been audited by the state. The fall guy was the head of Nevada’s Department of Taxation, who had to resign. The mining lobbyists had gamed the Tax Commission (the lobbyist for Newmont was a former member) by writing in deductions on everything from the dues to the World Gold Council to double dipping health care costs. It took the press and other legislators aback, and mining’s been on its heels ever since.
Finally, mining’s reaction to heightened scrutiny has been arrogant and ill conceived-which never makes you any friends. In 2011, they were neutral on SJR 15. In hearings on the Senate side this year, they were still testifying as neutral. (Although everyone knew this was BS.) But at the hearings in the Assembly, they came with both barrels blazing, threatening lawsuits and reduced funding for the budget. Hubris once again.
People began seeing that mining had run Nevada like a colony since statehood, and became outraged. To show how far the tide had turned, even conservative Republicans who voted against SJR 15 in 2011 launched their own effort in 2013 to tax mining by another $600 million-contingent on passage of SJR 15.
It’s no wonder mining offered a $50 million bribe to the Nevada Legislature to kill SJR 15, in the most outrageous and under-reported story of the session.
We’re encouraged by the strength Legislative leaders have demonstrated under such immense pressure from mining. Next step is to pass this on the November 2014 ballot, then to enact a reasonable severance tax on mineral production to build infrastructure that will last long after the mines are gone.
Assemblyman Ellison got on the Elko Daily Free Press today and discussed how he was ashamed, and disappointed in the passing of the Bill.
But, what did Ellison expect when he, and others, including Crowley, and Newmont’s Jim Wadhams bragged about how the average salary in Elko was $88k per year? First, as a resident of Elko, the $88k per year average salary is highly inflated, but second, how did he think he was going to convince others who are representing constituents who lost their jobs, then their homes, then had to watch their children’s education sink to the bottom of the nation, that the mining industry, which is shipping $Billions out of Nevada and funding $Multi-Billion mining failures in other countries (http://lasvegascitylife.com/sections/opinion/damned-pundit/hugh-jackson-nevada-funds-mining%E2%80%99s-big-mistakes.html), and paying a measly 1% into the general fund (http://www.planaction.org/wp-content/uploads/Final-Mining-Report-June-2012.pdf), that changing how the mining industry is taxed would be the thing that broke NV’s back. We have seen these Out-of-State corporations take their profits out of Nevada, and then Blow $Billions…$BILLIONS on mines that are complete failures. It is time for this behavior to stop.
Not everyone in Rural Nevada, like Ellison would like you to believe, is working for the mining industry making $88k per year. Moreover, Nevada’s job opportunities have been cut due to decisions made by Out-of-State managers, resulting in mass layoffs, such as the one at Jerritt Canyon, which resulted in 400+ NV jobs being cut. This does not include Newmont’s first wave of layoffs (http://www.mynews4.com/mostpopular/story/Series-of-layoffs-to-come-at-Newmont-Gold-in-Elko/aVSGwBcTO0qUWiecV3e1bQ.cspx), which happened shortly after Newmont filled up their offices with a Paul Jr. Designs Custom Motorcycle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQpZt-17Fwo , and just prior to posting a Pre-Tax increase of $159 Million over the previous year:
http://newmont.q4web.com/files/2012%2010K_v001_v431ld.pdf#page=110 ; and for 2011: http://newmont.q4web.com/files/2012%2010K_v001_v431ld.pdf#page=111
Other companies have been laying off workers too, such as Small Mine Development, and Newmont’s former CEO’s new time bomb, BoartLongyear, and possibly others. These layoffs have nothing to do with how they are taxed, but rather the decisions made by Out-of-State managers.
The constant sell that has been made by these NMA yahoos (Ellison, Ol’ Pete, Wadhams, and Crowley) – that the mining industry is creating jobs – has been nothing but BS, and moreover, it has mislead people into thinking that they can charge a premium for rentals and real estate in Elko; not to mention false hopes and promises for those who relocated to the Elko area to find jobs, but only found an expensive place to rent: http://elkodaily.com/news/local/growing-divide-between-wages-rent-an-obstacle-for-many/article_36e5ead6-98f0-11e2-aad0-001a4bcf887a.html#comments
PLAN, and those representatives who voted for your constituents to allow them vote, thank you for your efforts. Ellison, you failed. Every time you spoke, it was just the same played out scare tactic, and not even your constituents working in the mining industry in Elko were buying it. Some were even moreover offended that you would belittle those in workers in Nevada who lost their jobs, their homes, and watched their children’s education sink to the bottom in the nation. Even in Elko we had to watch our friends and family members struggle, and then ultimately pack up and leave Nevada to find work, as they were terminated from their mining jobs while their Out-of-State Corporate employers were busy making $Billions, and wasting it in the Arctic North, Africa, and South America. Yet, Ellison found it appropriate to brag about a few people who might be making $88K per year, while, for the most part, families are making significantly less than that, and consequently, struggling to make an inflated $2,000 per month rental payment that the mining industry artificially inflated?
Ellison, Wadhams, Ol’ Pete, and Crowley, we are disappointed and ashamed at you for your insensitivity for those people working in Rural Nevada who are not making $88k per year, and unable to get this “dream” mining job that you guys kept promising. Maybe now, teachers, and public employees can get on this $88k annual salary that you have bragged about. http://elkodaily.com/news/john-ellison-s-comments-on-the-assembly-floor/article_b7b65694-c421-11e2-a799-0019bb2963f4.html
It will be a cold day in hell before the NMA, Newmont’s Mr. Wadhams, Ellison, or Ol’ Pete convince anyone I know not to vote to repeal the Minerals Tax Cap. There are people in Elko who want to see this protection repealed, and elsewhere. The mining industry has a long bridge – one that stretches across the state – that has been burnt by the way they have disregarded their employees, Nevada’s environment, and Nevada in general.
Again, PLAN, thank you for your efforts, and for being the voice that our elected representatives did not want us to have.