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Cooperation seen on severance tax deal in Lansing

Where we stand

December 16, 2012
The Mining Journal

With Gov. Rick Snyder's signature expected within days on the package on non-ferrous mining severance tax bills, the past year's efforts by local officials to fight for provisions they felt were just did not go unnoticed here at home and in the state capitol.

"I'm very pleased, some very dedicated people did a lot of hard work to put this together," said Marquette County Board Chairwoman Deborah Pellow. "Even though we didn't get everything we wanted, we did tremendous work to get this done from where we were. I think the people of Marquette County can be happy and proud."

Those comments sum up the results well for all of the parties involved.

In a political season where bills were pushed quickly through the Legislature at a staggering pace, especially in the last few days of session, the severance tax issue was debated and battled back and forth for a year and in the end, compromise and cooperation ruled the day.

In addition to the efforts of local government officials, Rio Tinto had to be willing to work with the locals and state lawmakers to make concessions or the eventual legislation approved would not likely have been judged as being as fair as it has been without the company's support.

State administration officials, including Michigan Department of Natural Resources director Keith Creagh, also took pains to make trips to the Upper Peninsula to talk over the issue with locals on more than one occasion. Though he didn't always say what the locals wanted to hear, he continued to be willing to work on the governor's behalf to see the issue through with a mind to be fair to everyone.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, was lauded for steering the legislation through the final days to passage in the Senate. Casperson, criticized early on by the county board, was also willing to fight to help get changes made that helped local interests. In the end, they applauded him.

Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, first floated the severance tax idea last year and ultimately introduced the package of six bills into the Legislature. Dammed by many locals in the beginning for not publicly disclosing his intentions, Huuki ultimately created bills which will likely serve as he intended, landmark and far-reaching legislation "to help Upper Peninsula mining companies create jobs and become stronger financially while encouraging economic development in the region." Huuki also sought to keep local taxing entities whole.

There were numerous others involved in helping the bills' crafting and passage including state Rep. Steve Lindberg, D-Marquette, attorneys at the local and state level, consultants and lobbyists.

Certainly uncommon these days, in this rare case, government ultimately seemed to work the way it should. From Democrats and Republicans to the mining companies, locals and the state, everyone seems to have come out a winner to some satisfiable degree.

Mr. Smith went to Lansing and returned with a compromise we all can be proud of. Congratulations and thank you to all involved.



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