The stalemate over whether to mint commemorative coins honoring the centennials of six Western states out of silver or palladium has been broken.
While it may have seemed a nickel-and-dime issue, by the same token it was a spat that required a classic legislative compromise.The Statehood Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, introduced in Congress earlier this week, calls for the minting of 1 million traditional-sized silver dollar coins and 350,000 $5 palladium coins. The measure also calls for the minting of 90 percent silver U.S. proof sets.
The coins will mark the centennials of Washington state, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota.
The stalemate pitted lawmakers from Idaho, the No. 2 silver producing state, against those from Montana, where the only palladium mine in the nation is found.
"We will be minting both silver and palladium coins if our bills pass this year, and I must say I couldn't be happier," said Idaho Republican Rep. Larry Craig, adding that the compromise was "good news" for the mining districts of the Northwest.
Craig, along with House Majority leader Tom Foley of Washington state and Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., sponsored the House bill and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., was the chief sponsor of the Senate bill.
Craig said that the last-minute addition of a provision calling for the silver proof sets will allow the depletion of the silver stockpile by up to 3 million ounces per year. The stockpile presently holds about 90 million ounces.
"This is a good provision," said Craig. "It will give another boost to the mining recovery now under way."
Surcharges on the coins will provide an estimated $1.5 million for the "Documents West" historical exhibit, with any additional revenues going to the U.S. Treasury.