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Lawmakers In Carson City Wrap Up Week Without Budget Deal

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(Trevor Bexon/The Nevada Independent via AP, Pool)

Assistant Majority Leader Julia Ratti gestures during the Special Session in Carson City, Nev., Monday, July 13, 2020.

Republicans in the state senate held up a bill that would have resulted in more tax revenue from the mining industry. 

And state lawmakers will not meet over the weekend, stretching the special session on Nevada’s budget to nearly two weeks.

There were a lot of surprises, the main one being a new bill Assembly Democrats introduced shortly before they went into session at around 7 p.m.

They’ve been getting a lot of late starts to floor sessions. The Assembly’s planned start time Thursday was 10 a.m.

They announced the mining tax bill in an unusual way. Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson first released it to the public in an interview with the Nevada Independent.

Mining companies are allowed to take 13 deductions on the income they get from selling minerals. Those include things like the cost of transporting what they dig up, buying and maintaining equipment. 

The way the law has been, they could write off 100 percent of those costs. But under this new law, they would only be able to take 60 percent.

In other words, it’s a tax increase, but without amending the state Constitution, which sets a flat 5 percent cap on total taxes for mining.

This is the kind of reform progressive groups have been pushing for since the special session began. 

Support comes from

The state constitution treats mining differently than every other industry in the state and, according to progressives, it has never paid its fair share in taxes.

The bill passed the Assembly on a party-line vote – every Democrat voted for it and every Republican voted against. 

The same happened in the Senate, which meant the bill failed. It needed a two-thirds majority to make it and Democrats are one member away from that.

Nevada needs millions of dollars, and mining companies are taking a finite resource from Nevada, and they pay very low taxes—just over $100 million on nearly $8 billion in revenues in 2019.  

Republicans said this bill was singling out one industry. Although, mining is actually singled out by the state Constitution, which was written more than a hundred years ago. 

In addition, they predicted this would cause smaller mines to make layoffs or close.

They also made a lot of romantic references to mining’s role in state history and accused Democrats of betraying mining companies, who have agreed to pay their taxes for the coming year in advance to help with this budget crisis.

Of course, that also means there will be a budget hole when those taxes would have normally been paid.

Besides the mining tax reform, both parties introduced their own alternatives to Governor Steve Sisolak’s budget proposal, which proposed cutting more than $550 million.

Senate Republicans say they found more than $160 million to add back into the budget. They want to add that money back into programs like Read by Grade 3, and autism treatment. They also want to reduce the amount Medicaid reimbursement, which is the amount the state pays providers for care, would be reduced.

Senate Democrats have their own counter-offer, too. They didn’t identify as much money to move around as the Republicans – their plan includes just under $140 million in additional funding. 

They want to fund child welfare incentives in Clark and Washoe County, problem gambling assistance and reduce the number of furlough days for state employees. 

They’re taking slightly different approaches to plugging the hole in the state budget, but unfortunately, the state is going be $1.2 billion short, unless Congress approves more COVID-19 relief.

Lawmakers have yet to vote on any bills that would cut funding. There’s one bill that will make the cuts to education, health care and other services. And another one will impose those furloughs on state employees. 

On Thursday, lawmakers announced they won’t be meeting again until Saturday. 

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson did say they’d be working Friday in the legislative building – it seems like they’re trying to hammer most of this out before they go back into the chambers. 

That also means the deals aren’t getting made in public.

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