Teachers tax petition will go to Legislature

The teachers' union petition calling for a business tax to support public schools has more than enough signatures to qualify for submission to the 2001 Legislature.

The Nevada State Education Association collected more than 80,000 names - nearly double the 44,009 needed to qualify. The Secretary of State's Office announced Monday that 63,795 of those signatures were found valid.

That means the teachers' plan to mandate increased funding for K-12 public education will be submitted to lawmakers. If they don't pass the plan into law, it will be put on the 2002 general election ballot.

But NSEA President Elaine Lancaster has said teachers are willing to work with lawmakers to develop a more acceptable plan.

The petition would create a business tax teachers' union officials say should raise more than $250 million for education. It would consist of a 4 percent income tax on every Nevada business including the casinos - calculated by the amount a business declares on its federal income tax return. Earnings below $50,000 would be exempt.

It was approved by more than enough Nevada voters in 16 of the 17 counties. Esmeralda County fell short by five names.

Lawmakers and others including the governor have objected to the plan because it earmarks money. They say it is up to the governor and Legislature to decide how much money each function of government needs each year and that the earmarked tax would hamstring them.

But they objected most strenuously to the part of the plan designed to stop lawmakers from "backing out" the money raised by the new tax by cutting existing education funding that amount. That mandates half of all other money in the state general fund also goes to public education.

State officials say that is a hidden increase in education funding since only about 38 percent of the budget now goes to public education. And they point out that provision would strip cash out of other vital governmental services.

The petition is one of two tax initiatives this election year. The other, sponsored by State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, would raise the gross gaming tax from 6.25 percent for the largest casinos to 11.25 percent.

Gaming officials oppose both measures but say the Neal plan would put some casinos out of business and - along with Indian gambling - severely damage the state's economy.


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