Decision puts gaming tax on ballot | NevadaAppeal.com

Decision puts gaming tax on ballot

The Nevada teachers union won a ruling Thursday putting its proposed 3 percent gaming tax increase on the November ballot.

The Nevada Resort Association is expected to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The petition would increase the state’s gaming tax for the largest casinos – those earning more than $1 million a month – and dedicate the money to public education. That would set the total gross revenue fee for those resorts at 9.75 percent.

Senior Judge Miriam Shearing essentially ruled the new version of the initiative petition cured the fault she found in the first – namely that a petition must embrace a single subject and that its parts must be “functionally related and germane to each other.”

“Certainly imposing an additional gaming license fee and designating the funds for school salaries and student achievement is functionally related to providing an increase in teachers’ salaries and improving student achievement.”

She added the Nevada Constitution actually requires proposals that cost money also provide the necessary funding.

The single subject rule was designed to keep groups backing initiatives that change the constitution from presenting confusing and misleading proposals and to prevent requirements that wouldn’t become law on their own from being passed solely because they are attached to popular measures.

Resort Association lawyer Todd Bice argued Monday that raising the tax was one subject, that directing that it be spent on teacher salaries and on student achievement was a second subject and that language designed to keep lawmakers from considering the new money when determining the public school budgets was another subject.

Bice argued those issues aren’t spelled out in the petition’s description of effect, making it invalid.

While Shearing agreed with resort association lawyers, the 200-word description of effect doesn’t lay out every potential impact of the proposed constitutional amendment, she dismissed the argument saying that is practically impossible.

“It is inconceivable that the Legislature intended to require a proponent of an initiative to set forth every possible ramification of an initiative in 200 words,” she wrote.

“Of necessity, the description must be a summary of the general effect of the main provisions.”

“The other objection – that there is a hidden escalating spending obligation by the Legislature – is difficult to understand,” she said.

She said if school population increases, more funding would be required but, if the school population decreases, the initiative wouldn’t prevent funding from being decreased.

Shearing rejected the argument by the Las Vegas Sands, which also filed to block the petition, that the initiative interferes with decisions which have been delegated to local school districts.

She said the initiative sets policy that would then have to be implemented by the Legislature and school districts. Resort Association Director Bill Bible could not be reached for comment but the association is expected to appeal as it has in similar cases in the past.

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