Nevada lawmakers have successfully negotiated one of the largest mining tax increases in the state’s history. The passage of the bill concludes a tumultuous session in which lawmakers added nearly hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for schools. Paul Boger from KUNR reports.
Legislature adjourned the 81st session of the Nevada Legislature just minutes to midnight late Monday.
The end of the session is usually a time of celebration. After 120 days of committee hearings, budget negotiations, speeches and countless hours of waiting for votes, legislators are understandably thrilled to hear the hammer for the last time, but this year the joy also marked the end of a particularly grueling week in which the legislature has a budget passed and completed one of the largest gold and silver mining tax increases in Nevada’s history.
Congregation Speaker Jason Frierson introduced AB495 to lawmakers.
“It is said that legislation is the art of compromise,” said Frierson. “I believe this bill represents a monumental compromise and collaboration that will benefit Nevadans now and for years to come.”
The move results in a new excise tax on gold and silver producers with gross profits of at least $ 20 million per year, and is expected to raise an estimated $ 300 million over the next biennium, which is specifically earmarked for education .
Presented in the evenings of the session, the bill was drafted as a compromise not only between legislators and the mining industry, but also by teacher groups and gambling.
“I think everyone involved goes, everyone goes, a little sad,” said Tire Gray, president of the Nevada Mining Association. “We can certainly walk a little easier, but at the end of the day we are all happy to know that we will help the education.”
The thing is, the mining industry has been forced to the negotiating table. First, during last summer’s special sessions, the Democrats tabled a handful of resolutions aimed at amending the state constitution to drastically increase mining tax obligations.
The Clark County Education Association also assisted the Democrats’ negotiations after successfully adding a number of tax initiatives to the 2022 ballot that may increase the state’s sales and gambling taxes. The union is currently working to withdraw the initiatives now that AB495 is on the governor’s desk.
Gray says the industry took these factors into account.
“When you are presented with four options and asked to choose one, you will likely choose one that fits your business model a little better,” said Gray.
Even with the blessings of the mining industry, the Democrats could not win the vote alone. Under state law, creating or changing taxes requires a two-thirds majority to pass. That required the approval of at least four Republicans, two in Parliament and two in the Senate.
Throughout the session, GOP lawmakers advocated higher funding for casual scholarships for students with special needs. They also wanted $ 15 million in federal COVID aid for pandemic-hit charter schools.
Six Republicans eventually voted for the bill, including Reno MP Jill Tolles. She says the compromise legislation signaled a win-win situation for the state.
“From the beginning [I] said it was important to me that any kind of investment in education must come from an industry that supports it, and we saw that in this case, “said Tolles.” And [it] really needs to affect all of our students in our schools across the country. In my opinion [it] really covers the base [of] ensure that our children are well, and for me that will always be the driving force. “
Lawmakers have invested nearly half a billion dollars in new money in education with the help of increased mining taxes and federal COVID relief funds. For Speaker Frierson, this push to increase education funding is just the beginning.
“I’m really proud of the record investments we’re making,” said Frierson. “We started a conversation about a 10 year plan to increase spending per student. We will need to continue to monitor the results to ensure that it is not just about money, but transparency and accountability as well. All of this is part of it, but we are proud that we invest in our children. “
In total, the legislature approved around 9.5 billion US dollars in government funds for the next two years.
One thing this budget doesn’t take into account is the federal COVID aid money. The state will receive around $ 2.7 billion under the US rescue plan, but those funds can only be used for certain things. Legislators say they can use these stimulus funds in the meantime between meetings.