Revised Nevada casino tax petition filed

A revised teachers' union petition to increase Nevada gambling taxes to raise about $250 million a year for public education was filed Tuesday, with changes aimed at safeguarding it from legal attacks by the casino industry.

The changes followed a recent Carson City District Court ruling that kept the Nevada State Education Association petition alive but deleted wording that said at least 60 percent of the funds generated by the tax should be used for teacher pay, benefits and incentives.

The court said the earmarking of funds amounts to "logrolling," or relying on the more popular idea of improving education to get a less popular teacher pay raise plan approved.

Now the petition says the goal is to improve teacher salaries and to improve student achievement. The same amount of money would be raised, but the revision doesn't have an exact breakdown of how the money would be spent.

"Gaming consultants and obstructionists have tried to stall the process by challenging our initial measure " a move to turn their backs on Nevada students one more time," NSEA president Lynn Warne said. "This will not stop us."

The Nevada Resort Association challenged the proposal that would raise by 3 percent the gross gaming revenue tax now paid by casinos making more than $1 million a month. That would increase their tax rate from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent.

Warne has said the rate would still be among the lowest casino tax rates in the world.

The petition is similar to one filed by NSEA in 2001 that sought to impose a 4 percent tax on the profits of all Nevada businesses making more than $50,000 a year, with the money dedicated to public schools.

That question was taken off the ballot by the Nevada Supreme Court for violating a law that confines an initiative petition to one subject.

The resort association challenged the latest petition on the same grounds, arguing it covers more than one subject area and that it's brief introductory "Explanation of Effect" is misleading and doesn't match what the actual petition would do if added to the Constitution.

Besides the teachers' plan, Las Vegas lawyer Kermitt Waters has filed two ballot initiatives to raise taxes on Nevada's biggest casinos to about 20 percent. The resort association also has filed a legal challenge of those proposals.

To qualify for a spot on the ballot, backers need to gather at least 58,628 signatures by May 20. Voters would then have to approve the measures in the 2008 and 2010 elections. The one that gets the most voter support in 2010 would take effect.

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