Bid to raise sales tax for schools must change, Carson City judge orders
Carson District Judge Todd Russell on Friday agreed with opponents seeking to block a huge sales tax increase that the initiative petition’s Description of Effect should include a clear statement saying what Nevada’s sales tax rate will be if it passes.
The petition was filed by “Fund Our Schools,” a Las Vegas PAC. The opposition is from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.
Kevin Benson argued that, while the petition says the initiative asks voters to raise the Local School Support Tax to 4.1 percent, it doesn’t say that would push the total sales tax to well over 9 percent. In Clark County, he said it would be 9.875 percent and in Washoe, 9.365 percent. He argued many voters won’t even know what the LSST is or understand that it is just part of the total sales tax.
Trey Rogers, representing Fund Our Schools PAC, said most voters understand that their sales tax is significantly higher than 4.1 percent. The petition, he said, would increase the LSST from 2.6 to 4.1 percent, a 1.5 percent increase that would generate nearly $1 billion for K-12 schools.
Russell challenged him: “Shouldn’t the public at least have the ability to know what the total sales tax would be?”
“The consumer needs to be informed, in the court’s mind, what the total tax is going to be at the end of the day,” he said, adding that the existing petition description fails to do that.
But he declined to grant Benson’s request that the Description of Effect include a statement that the petition would make Nevada’s sales tax the highest in the nation, saying that is conjecture since the situation could change before the petition takes effect if passed.
Russell made it clear his ruling has nothing to do with whether or not he feels public education is properly funded in Nevada. He also said he, “understands this is probably only a stop on the way to the Supreme Court.”
He directed Benson to draft the proposed order in the case.
That petition is one of two being circulated aimed at increasing public school funding. The second, sponsored by Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes, would create a new, fourth tier of gaming taxes and apply it to Nevada’s largest resorts. It would raise the gross gaming fee rate from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent.
In addition, there is a lawsuit filed in the Carson District Courts that charges current K-12 funding in Nevada is so inadequate it violates the state constitution and laws. That lawsuit seeks to have the courts take control of public education funding.