"It is inexcusable not to have any kind of real taxes on gold," retired Reno engineer Jerry Purdy said during the Monday night meeting, the second in Buckley's statewide listening tour aimed at finding ways to bail the state out of its worst budget crisis in generations.
His sentiments were echoed by other speakers representing groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
Others said Nevada needs to do a better job of spurring renewable energy development to generate new taxes.
Since January, legislators and Gov. Jim Gibbons have cut state spending by $1.2 billion to make up for revenue shortfalls caused by the economic downturn. Gibbons has warned that the state might have to cut spending by another 14 percent when the Legislature goes into session in February.
Because of continuing shortfalls in state tax revenue, Buckley, D-Las Vegas, a possible candidate for governor in 2010, told a crowd of about 200 at the University of Nevada, Reno student union that the cuts could be as high as 20 percent.
Buckley didn't recommend any new tax increases during the meeting, but said legislators no longer can afford to grant tax exemptions and abatements because every dollar lost means a dollar less for education, health care and public safety programs.
Members of the audience pointed out that the mining industry contributes only a small fraction in state taxes at a time when gold prices are booming.
Richard Siegel, a longtime leader of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, noted a recent report that said the mining industry generated $5.5 billion in income in 2007 and yet contributes less than $100 million in state taxes.
David Ward, a Reno City Council candidate, also recommended mining tax increases, saying they should be indexed to the price of gold. When gold prices are high, mining would pay more. When prices are low, their taxes would be less.
Earlier this year when gold topped $1,000 an ounce, Gibbons, a former mining geologist and lawyer, vowed to veto any bill that called for increasing mining taxes in 2009.
Mining companies paid $62 million in a 5 percent tax on their net revenues in 2006, of which the state's share was $30 million. Nevada mines produce more than two-thirds of the nation's gold.