Thursday, May 13, 2010 | 12:24 p.m.
CARSON CITY - Responding to the mining industry's challenge to its ballot initiative, a liberal group argues Nevadans should have a chance to vote on tripling the mining tax or watch the state go "down the toilet."
The Progressive Leadership Alliance, in a brief filed with the court Wednesday, asks the Nevada Supreme Court to permit the proposed constitutional amendment go be placed on the November ballot.
The alliance said its "purpose is to wield the blunt instrument to raise taxes on the mining industry."
District Judge James Wilson of Carson City ruled the initiative is valid, but the mining association appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing it's "inherently confusing" and improperly contains more than one subject.
The court will hear oral arguments by the alliance and Nevada Mining Association June 7th.
The alliance would have to gather 97,002 voters' signatures by June 15 to get the issue on the ballot. It has collected between 20,000 and 25,000 so far.
Voters would have to approve the measure in 2010 and 2012 before it become law. The Nevada Constitution presently says a tax of up to 5 percent on the net proceeds of minerals could be charged. The initiative calls for a tax of no less than 5 percent on the gross proceeds of minerals.
If passed, the $91 million collected in 2008 would have instead been $284.4 million, according to the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
The state faces a budget deficit in 2011 of $2.5 billion to $3 billion. Meanwhile, gold prices are near record highs, reaching $1,233 an ounce today.
The brief, signed by Las Vegas attorney Don Springmeyer, said the mining association's appeal is aimed at blocking a vote of the people "which is hardly laudable from any viewpoint."
"In face of this budget crisis, this year we saw the sorry spectacle of the state begging like a street urchin from a Charles Dickens novel, holding its little bowl out to the mining industry: 'Please sir, may I have some more?‚'" he wrote.