February 14, 2013
Senators Stand Up for
Taxpayers on Mining
Cullen, Jauch, Schultz: Why Give Natural Resources Away for Free?
(MADISON) – “Why would Wisconsin give its natural resources away for free?” That’s the question three veteran state Senators are asking today.
Senators Tim Cullen, Bob Jauch, and Dale Schultz, all former Senate Leaders, are joining together to challenge attacks by out-of-state special interests calling on Wisconsin lawmakers to pass a mining bill which would allow a mining company to extract iron and market it without paying taxes on the outbound minerals.
“It is incomprehensible to me that an elected official, who took an oath to serve the best interests of the people of Wisconsin, could endorse and vote for a bill which allows an out-of-state company to mine our natural resources and never pay a tax,” said Cullen (D-Janesville). “That system would leave local property taxpayers to foot the bill so the mining company can use the local services of nearby communities tax-free.”
Cullen’s comments come in response to a letter, released yesterday by Washington D.C. – based anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, which urges Wisconsin legislators to reject efforts to reform Wisconsin’s metallic mining taxation system. In his letter, which comes across as a thinly veiled political threat, Norquist says he opposes “any new taxes…including a proposed tonnage tax,” and reminds legislators that supporting such a tax would be a violation of his organization’s notorious “No Tax Pledge.”
In response to this unprecedented incursion by an out-of-state special interest, Cullen released a report from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau showing under Senate Bill 1, a mining company would pay little or no property, corporate income, net proceeds or other taxes to the state, forcing local taxpayers to pay more. The memo also details that under Senate Bill 3, an alternative mining bill authored by Cullen that includes a gross tonnage tax, Wisconsin would still have a lower mining tax rate than Minnesota, the most successful iron mining state in the country.
“If we do not include a tonnage tax on mining companies, the local property taxpayer is the one who is going to pay more,” Cullen said. “The legislature should be focused on protecting taxpayers, not the demands of a man whose tactics led to the dysfunction we see today in Washington, D.C.”
Jauch (D-Poplar) said Norquist’s comments are stunning because Minnesota has a tonnage tax and leads the nation in taconite production and doubled production as recently as 2010. This would seem to refute Norquist’s claim that a tonnage tax would hurt industry.
“Grover Norquist can’t find Northern Wisconsin on a map, and in opposing a plan that would help Wisconsin taxpayers, he shows his ignorance of the issue,” Jauch said. “He ran Congress into the ground, and now he wants to shortchange Wisconsin taxpayers to help a West Virginia coal company which wants to extract Wisconsin minerals at a hugely discounted rate.”
“The authors of SB 1 and Governor Walker shouldn’t take their marching orders from a fringe Washington lobbyist and an out-of-state coal mining company,” said Jauch, who represents the area in which the proposed iron ore mine would be located. “Instead, they should be listening to the citizens of Northern Wisconsin and embracing responsible mining reform.”
Schultz (R-Richland Center), whose district includes the iron-rich Baraboo Range, says his views on mining stem from his experience in helping clean up mining pollution as well as how future mining could impact his constituents.
“There’s a lot of talk about the state flag, state seal and history of mining, but I’m the guy who actually represents an area that knows about cleaning up the mess when mining was done the wrong way,” Schultz said. “Now we have an out-of-state fringe group coming in wanting to stick it to Wisconsin taxpayers just to make some political hay. It’s really sick.”
Schultz said he remains committed to passing a responsible mining reform bill, but political tricks continue to sidetrack the real issues.
“What we need is thoughtful, non-partisan and factual input to craft a bill that streamlines the mining process but also maintains our model environmental protections and is fair to the taxpayer,” Schultz said.
“The last time I checked, Alaska and Texas were doing pretty well, and they both have mineral extraction taxes. If those tax laws are good enough for former Governor Sarah Palin and Governor Rick Perry, they’re good enough for me and the people I represent who think someone should stand up for the average person,” Schultz said.
To date, Senate Bill 3, co-sponsored by Cullen, Jauch and Schultz, is the only bi-partisan mining reform bill pending in the legislature. The three said they will continue to reach out in an effort to build a coalition which can pass a mining bill that is pro jobs while also maintaining the state’s rich environmental protections and is fair to Wisconsin taxpayers.