By Bob Conrad and Lucia Starbuck
Nevada’s Democratic legislators tried again.
On the eleventh day of the special session, lawmakers searched for ways to bring in money to offset the $1.15 billion budget deficit in Nevada’s General Fund and find new revenue.
In a second attempt to collect additional revenue from mining companies to fill the major budget shortfall, the Senate revived Assembly Bill 4 with an amendment. AB4 died around 3 a.m. on Friday after Republican senators voted against the measure.
“What has been asked for has been given,” said Democratic Senator Nicole Cannizzaro. She said the Democrats revised AB4 to meet Republican demands.
But Republican Senators again shot down the bill tonight.
The revised AB4 proposed that a 60 percent cap on deductions could only come from mining companies that exceed $10 million in gross proceeds. Out of the 104 mining companies in Nevada, 38 of them reported over $10 million to the Nevada Department of Taxation in 2019.
The bill would reduce deductions mines could claim — to subtract from their gross proceeds — which would in effect increase their net proceeds and, thus, increase monies going to the state’s general fund.
Those dollars would have been earmarked specifically to education, a change to AB4 Democrats said was at the behest of Republicans.
The first $50 million of the revenue would have been distributed to the supplemental support for classroom instruction account and the next 50 million appropriated to New Nevada Education Funding Plan.
Republican Senator Keith Pickard said earlier today he would vote for the bill if there was written language to ensure that the revenue collected would be funneled into education. However, a little after 11 a.m. today, Pickard told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he would not be voting for the bill.
Democratic staffers placed flip-flops leading to Pickard’s office door in the Legislature, which made the Senate Republicans upset.
“Here you go Nevada! Democrat elected officials playing pranks while everyone WAITS for them to continue the business of the legislature during this special session!” Senate republicans tweeted.
Pickard instead said he would be throwing his support behind Republican Senator Joe Hardy’s proposal to generate $600 million from taxing renewable energy sold from Nevada to other states, a bill Hardy introduced in 2017, but failed without getting heard, according to The Nevada Independent.
Pickard said he wrongfully committed to the altered AB4 earlier today.
“I’m committed to finding a solution once and for all,” he said. “We need to have everyone at the same and expect them to be there. I’m not going to support a bill full of flaws, full of errors. I can’t support the bill even though I am as desperate to fund education as anyone. Did I make a mistake? You bet I did.”
Republican Senator James Settlemeyer also voted against AB4, saying it would put mines in his district out of business.
Democratic Senator Melanie Scheibel said, “This bill is well written and it is clear. The choice before us is an easy one.”
Democratic Senator Julia Ratti agreed.
“If there are dollars that we can find so that we can do this today, where are those dollars? Every single dollar matters,” she said. “I think this bill is incredibly important — there’s an urgency.”
Republican Senator Ben Kieckhefer said those dollars are coming from the feds. He accused Dems of cutting more from education.
“They cut more from K-12 at the same time replacing massive amounts of money to support fully employed, fully insured [and] fully pensioned adults,” he said.
AB4 would have generated an estimated $100 million to the state. The legislature, through court decisions, has leeway to determine deductions mines can make, legislature staff testified Thursday.