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Walker, Norquist against Democratic mining tax bill in Wisconsin

The fight between Wisconsin Democratic and Republican mining bills has shifted from environmental concerns to how the state would tax a mining company. That argument took a strange twist last week when Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norqu...

The fight between Wisconsin Democratic and Republican mining bills has shifted from environmental concerns to how the state would tax a mining company. That argument took a strange twist last week when Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist entered the debate.

The proposed Democra-tic bill says mining companies should be taxed on the amount of minerals taken out of the ground, called a "gross tonnage tax." The Republican bill would tax final profits by a mining company.

Republican state Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center, who has co-sponsored a bipartisan mining bill with Sens. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, and Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said that's giving away natural resources because companies can make the annual bottom line appear as if they hadn't made a profit.

"All kinds of accountants and businesspeople have raised their eyebrows over this and said companies have found ways to avoid paying taxes," Schultz said. "It might be 10 years, if ever, before this is profitable."

But Gov. Scott Walker says no way to a gross tonnage tax.

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"I'm not going to issue veto threats on legislation or amendments that haven't yet been offered, but I can tell you I can't support that and, whether it's here or to the budget or anywhere else, I would do what is necessary to ensure that we don't have a new tax as part of the

mining legislation," Walker said.

Enter Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. He sent e-mails to all Wisconsin Republican lawmakers last week telling them not to vote for the Democratic tax, saying it amounts to a tax increase and violates their "no-new-taxes" pledge.

Schultz got that e-mail.

"I was absolutely blown away," Schultz said. "For a guy who has not exactly covered himself in glory with the fiscal cliff deal in Washington, it looks like he's looking for more fertile grounds in Wisconsin."

Schultz said this shows that the Republican iron ore mining bill in Wisconsin now has national interest with its net profits tax. If passed in Wisconsin without the tonnage tax, it could become a national model. The gross tonnage tax is the same kind of tax used in Minnesota and Michigan on iron ore mining companies.

Wisconsin Public Radio is carrying today's Senate mining committee debate live on WUWS in Ashland (90.9 FM) and KUWS in Superior (91.3 FM) in cooperation with Wisconsin Eye. The mining committees will debate the bills starting at 10 a.m.

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