Judge blocks teacher’s union business tax initiative
October 24, 2012
A business tax initiative petition sponsored by the state teachers’ union was rejected by a Carson City district judge on Tuesday.Carson District Judge James Wilson’s ruling blocked organizers from submitting the measure to the 2013 Legislature for consideration or to voters in 2014. The Education Initiative would tax all businesses making more than $1 million a year 2 percent and pump the revenue generated — an estimate $800 million a year — into the state budget for K-12 education.It is framed as a statutory initiative, which means, if teachers were able to get the necessary 72,352 valid signatures, the proposal would be presented to the 2013 Legislature to enact into law. If they refused to do so, the proposal would go on the 2014 ballot for voters to decide.But Wilson agreed with Josh Hicks, representing the group Committee to Save Nevada Jobs, that the description of effect laying out what the petition would do was deceptive, incomplete and misleading.Specifically, Wilson agreed the description, designed as a brief layman’s explanation of a proposed petition, failed to explain that, although the revenue goes to public schools, it doesn’t guarantee more money for education. He agreed there is nothing in the plan to preclude the governor or legislature from using that revenue to supplant existing state education funding, backing state money out of the budget to use elsewhere.“As a result, the effect of the initiative, the committee argues, is the creation of a tax that will allow the Legislature to increase spending for any lawful purpose, including noneducation purposes,” Wilson wrote in his order.“This effect is something those being asked to sign the petition should know,” he wrote adding that failure to include that in the description invalidates the petition.Wilson also agreed that the estimated revenue the tax would generate is something voters should know, as is the fact that, even if a business loses money, it must pay the tax if total revenues exceed $1 million a year.Finally, he said that the description says revenues from the tax would go toward the education budget, but doesn’t mention that a chunk of the cash would pay for the Department of Taxation’s costs to administer the tax.All those issues, he wrote, also invalidate the petition.The order bars the Secretary of State from submitting the petition to the 2013 Legislature or placing it on the 2014 general election ballot.The union is expected to appeal the ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.