A socially conscious business group works for social justice
“If we let Chambers of Commerce dominate the dialogue with their rapacious, greed-based values, we’re doomed,” says Bob Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. He’s addressing a relatively new business association called BASE (Business Advocating Social Equity). There are about a dozen members present at the meeting. “To the extent that we can lift business up, we also get to save the little snugglebunnies around the world.”
It’s a little difficult to imagine members of a hard core small-business association using the words “rapacious” and “snugglebunnies” in the same thought, but nobody even smiled over their pizza and beer. This is serious business.
BASE’s mission is to “represent as a common voice, a coalition of small and medium-sized businesses with a progressive view of issues regarding doing business in the state of Nevada.” Objectives for the group include a recognition that taxes are the dues people pay to live in a healthy community, business and government must work together, and protection of Nevada’s land, air and water resources is essential to maintaining a healthy economy.
At this particular meeting are representatives of industries including technology, food service, retail sales, politics, non-profits, media and advertising, but at this moment, everyone is concentrating on the near-term goals of the group, which will be to support an initiative petition that will increase the tax on mining in the state. It’s called the Fair Mining Tax Initiative, and it would have Nevada minerals taxed at 5 percent of gross value.
“I guess the idea would be we could wait until this June [to decide the future of BASE],” said Tim Healion, restaurateur, director of BASE and head of the Tour de Nez bicycle race. The signatures on the mining petition must be submitted by June 15. “And then BASE will have to decide what it wants to be.”
Collecting 130,000 signatures statewide at this late date is an uphill battle, despite the fact that a majority of Nevadans support the idea of making foreign companies pay for the resources they take out of Nevada, says Fulkerson. In 2008, he continues, $5.7 billion was taken out of Nevada by gold miners. Four of the five largest mining corporations in the state are companies from outside the United States (all are based outside Nevada). The mining companies contributed a total of $40 million into Nevada’s general fund.
Since the price of gold has risen to even greater heights, the disparity is going to be greater in 2009 and 2010. He guesses that in 2008, had this new tax law been in effect then, it would have brought in $300 million to the general fund. It wouldn’t have solved the budget crisis, but it certainly would have helped.