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Three senators reveal competing mining amendments

Published On: Feb 26 2013 06:36:05 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 27 2013 09:37:15 AM CST

MADISON, Wis. -

Three state senators, two Democrats and a Republican, revealed a series of amendments they plan to introduce during debate on a controversial mining bill Wednesday.

Republican Senate leaders have the votes to pass the bill in the Senate, where a similar measure died last year. They plan to call a vote after floor debate Wednesday.

Sens. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, said their amendments would increase environmental protections and ensure a mining company pay taxes on the iron ore it extracts.

"It could be years, it could be a decade, it may be never that taxes will be paid on ore taken out of this state," Schultz said.

The three senators said they were concerned that companies, such as Florida-based Gogebic Taconite, which wants to build a mine in northern Wisconsin, could get around paying taxes by manipulating their net revenue.

Instead, the senators said Gogebic and any other mining company should pay taxes on their gross receipts.

An amendment made two weeks ago addresses that, said Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, the Senate bill's sponsor.

"The company has to use generally accepted accounting principles, in other words, they need to use legitimate accounting principles, to report their revenues -- which is protective of the taxpayers," Tiffany said.

He said "significant revenues" would flow to local communities in northern Wisconsin, not to mention thousands of jobs the mine would create.

Tiffany said he couldn't back the other senators' alternative proposals because they would delay the process of getting a new mine approved.

The state Department of Natural Resources' rule-making process could take two years, he said.

Cullen said the DNR's involvement is almost non-existent in the current Republican bill.

"They've basically put the DNR on the sidelines," he said. "I think, as Wisconsinites, we ought to keep Wisconsin in the process and not have laws that knock us out of the process."

Jauch said his northern Wisconsin constituents have been "10 to 1" in their opposition to the mine.

He said the Bad River Band of Chippewa could sue over the legislation, meaning no jobs would be created for years.

"This legislation, instead of creating certainty, creates legal uncertainty," he said. "It is an invitation to litigation."

If the bill passes in the Senate, it would move to the Assembly.

Republican leaders have said they will bring the measure to a vote in the Assembly next week.

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