Group seeks to throw out referendum to repeal Commerce Tax

Supporters of the newly enacted commerce tax have served notice they will ask the Nevada Supreme Court to throw out the proposed referendum that would repeal that tax.

Matt Griffin and Kevin Benson, representing the Coalition for Nevada’s Future, filed their notice of appeal with the Carson District Court Wednesday.

The tightly focused referendum petition seeks only to repeal the commerce tax portion of the 2015 tax package, unlike an earlier petition that would have repealed the entire package in SB483.

That petition was thrown out by District Judge Todd Russell. But District Judge James Wilson rejected the arguments that would keep the commerce tax petition off the ballot, withholding judgment on just one issue: whether the ballot question would unconstitutionally create an unbalanced budget. He said that issue wouldn’t be ripe for judicial consideration until and unless voters approved the repeal.

The petition drive was organized by state Controller Ron Knecht.

The entire tax package is estimated to generate more than $1.1 billion to balance Nevada’s biennial budget. But the commerce tax, a levy on businesses that make more than $4 million a year in gross revenue, was projected to generate just $121 million of that total over the biennium.

Wilson rejected arguments the petition is void because its Description of Effect doesn’t explain voters could repeal the tax but if they vote to retain the tax, that vote would essentially etch the commerce tax provisions in stone so only the voters could change it in the future. Wilson said if the petition gets on the November 2016 ballot, it would have a statement written by the Secretary of State’s office as well as arguments for and against the question that would adequately inform voters.

He also rejected the argument the petition improperly contains administrative details that don’t belong in a ballot question.

The actual appeal brief has not yet been filed so it was not clear which issues the Coalition would take before the Supreme Court.

If the petition survives the appellate court challenge, supporters would have to raise at least 55,234 valid signatures including at least 13,809 in each of the state’s four congressional districts to get it on the ballot.


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