Hart's Silver Gem Act held in Senate committee
The Idaho Silver Gem Act, sponsored by Representative Phil Hart (R-Athol) failed to pass the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee today. The motion of Senator Joe Stenger, (R-Lewiston) to hold the bill in committee passed nearly unanimously, with committee chairman Senator Brent Hill (R-Rexberg) voting against the motion. Senator McKague's (R-Meridian) motion to send the bill to the Senate floor without recommendation was not seconded.
Stenger objected to the special treatment that would be given to silver processing facilities, saying that other businesses in the state would be equally deserving of the property and income tax exemptions promised by the bill, which were included as incentives to invest in new operations in the state. Stenger also objected to bill placing the state treasurer in the position of a commodities trader, saying that the additional workload was not justified by the benefit. Sen. Mike Jorgenson (R-Hayden) echoed Stenger's concerns, adding that for the treasurer to engage in commodities trading would "not be a healthy position" for Idaho.
Hart emphasized the potential the bill would hold for jobs creation and was joined by three Idaho residents warning of the damaging effects of the use of the "fiat currency" of the Federal Reserve. Hart mentioned that between 1792 when Congress minted the first US coins and 1913 (when the Federal Reserve Act was passed), the total inflation was 17%, while inflation has been 3200% since 1913.
In hist testimony, Hart shared the estimate of Bob Hopper of Bunker Hill Mining Company that the bill could put 400-800 miners to work in north Idaho, which Hart said would be joined by another 1.3 times that in jobs in supporting industries. Hart said much of Idaho's silver is currently exported to countries including Canada, China and India.
Hart also addressed environmental concerns, mentioning the modern hydrometallurgical technology that would be used in new silver processing facilities. He also suggested that the establishment of silver operations could lead to the clean up of mining tailings at superfund sites containing valuable indium. Hart estimated an additional $5-10 million in tax revenues resulting from the creation of jobs and up to $80 million with cleanup efforts.
Hart said he would have to meet with the members of the committee individually if he was to address their concerns.
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