Hearing set on latest tax petition

A May 1 hearing is set in Carson District Court on the latest petition to change Nevada's tax law.

Only the petition drive spearheaded by former Controller Steve Martin would make it harder to use the initiative process to raise taxes.

Nevada's constitution already requires that the Legislature have a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and Assembly to raise taxes.

That amendment was pushed by Gov. Jim Gibbons when he was a member of the Nevada Assembly some 20 years ago.

But Martin said all it takes to raise taxes with an initiative petition is 50 percent plus one vote. As a result, he said the teachers' union and others who want more money for different governmental programs are focusing on the petition process instead of the Legislature.

"When you do it through a petition, there's no fiscal study," he said.

He said the current petition rules don't require an analysis of the impact a proposal would have on the budget or current spending and programs. He said this petition is designed to push more tax increase proposals back toward the Legislature where they will be discussed in depth.

Martin said, however, the plan makes one exception: Any petition placed on the ballot by the Legislature to raise a tax or fee would only require a majority vote by the people to pass.

"If a tax increase gets through the Legislature with 50 percent and then through the voters with 50 percent, it's had pretty good scrutiny," he said.

The Nevada State Education Association has challenged the plan, arguing that its 200-word description of effect is incomplete and misleading - one of two grounds that can be used to prevent even the circulation of a petition.

Martin said supporters are going forward collecting signatures anyway in order to meet the May 20 deadline for submitting more than 58,628 names of registered Nevada voters to qualify the proposal for the November ballot.

He said they will have that many signatures by the May 1 hearing before Carson District Judge Todd Russell.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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