There are three petitions on this year’s November ballot. The first two deserve to be approved overwhelming by a vote of the people, and the third petition is one on which reasonable people may well disagree.
Ballot Question No. 1 asks, “Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to create a Court of Appeals that would decide appeals of District Court decisions in certain civil and criminal cases?” This new appellate court is essential to the speedy administration of justice, because of the continuing overload of cases on the Supreme Court’s docket. The Court’s 2013 case load was 333 cases per justice, more than three times that recommended by the American Bar Association.
The proposed Court of Appeals initially would consist of three judges appointed by the governor for terms of two years, and the Administrative Office of the Courts estimates the annual cost of administration would be $1.5 million a year. That is a small price to pay for more timely and well-considered judicial decisions.
Ballot Question No. 2, if approved, would amend certain provisions of the Nevada Constitution relating to mines, mining claims and minerals. The Legislature, or the people through the initiative process, would be able to enact laws relating to mining taxes and the uses of those revenues.
The Constitution generally exempts the mining industry from property taxes and limits the rate of tax on net proceeds to five percent. After certain allowances, the effective tax rate is around two percent. Why should mining in the 21st century have constitutional protections not enjoyed by other businesses? And the special treatment of mining is one of the principal reasons for the regressive structure of Nevada’s tax system.
Mineral resources are finite and can only be mined where they are found. The mainly non-Nevada corporations now profiting handsomely will not abandon the rich mineral deposits here because of marginally higher taxes that would be permitted by approval of Question 2. Vote “yes” on this issue.
Ballot Question No. 3 is more amenable to pro and con arguments. It’s called The Education Initiative because the tax revenue it would generate must be used to fund public schools from kindergarten through grade 12. It’s more commonly referred to as the gross margins tax, however, because it would impose a new tax of two percent on for-profit companies with annual gross revenues in excess of $1 million.
Increased funding will not cure all the problems of public schools in Nevada, but it’s an essential requirement. More funds are needed to ensure an equal education for all children in the state. More facilities are needed in some districts. Broadened use of new technology requires funding. But the margin tax is regressive and further degrades Nevada’s fiscal system, which already cries for reform.
The business community is vehemently opposed to the margins tax, claiming it will hurt the economy and cause job loss. It argues a tax on gross revenue, not profit, will put many small companies out of business and discourage new business development. About 85 percent of Nevada businesses do not gross a million dollars, however, and the proposed tax didn’t stop Tesla from coming to Nevada.
This writer has become convinced the needs of education outweigh the negatives of the tax. Study the issue and vote your conscience.
Bo Statham is a retired lawyer, congressional aide and businessman. He lives in Gardnerville and can be reached at email@example.com.