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Bill would protect taxpayers and reduce federal deficit

(Washington, D.C.) - As part of her ongoing efforts to end antiquated and unnecessary government programs, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced a bill that would end tax breaks for mining companies that are already mining public lands for free.

The Elimination of Double Subsidies for the Hardrock Mining Industry Act of 2011 would protect taxpayers and reduce the federal deficit, and has earned the support of both taxpayer advocate and environmental groups.

"Mining incentives made sense when the government was trying to lure companies to America's untamed West 150 years ago," Shaheen said. "But the mining industry has matured and those days are over. Now we must end these outdated and inefficient tax breaks and instead focus on innovation in a 21st century economy. 

As it stands now, the General Mining Law of 1872 allows hardrock mining companies - which mine for gold, silver, copper, and other precious metals - to mine on taxpayer-owned lands while paying nothing to the government, which significantly reduces their costs. In addition, the Percentage Depletion Allowance for mining on public lands gives U.S. mining companies the option of deducting a set percentage of their gross annual income from their federal income taxes, as an alternative to the standard corporate tax break for capital investment.  Shaheen's Hardrock Mining Act would eliminate this special alternative tax break. Mining companies would still be able to claim deductions based on actual capital investment.

Supporters of the bill include Taxpayers for Common Sense, EARTHWORKS, and Pew Environment Group.

"It's well past time to close this sweetheart tax break for mining companies," said Ms. Ryan Alexander, President of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national non-partisan budget watchdog. "Considering the budgetary hole we're in we can't afford to give away dimes, much less millions of dollars in double subsidies to the mining industry.  This provision should be on every lawmaker's list of proposed budget fixes."

Today Shaheen also introduced a bipartisan bill that would phase out the sugar support program and save consumers billions of dollars. The SUGAR Act, co-sponsored by Mark Kirk (R-IL), and the Hardrock Mining Act are part of Shaheen's ongoing efforts to eliminate antiquated unnecessary government programs.