Nevada election official to keep tax measures on 2022 ballot
CARSON CITY (Nev.) — Nevada’s top electoral official is challenging the status two ballot measures that the largest teacher’s union in the state promised to withdraw. After successfully using them to bargain with legislators and pressing them to increase education funding, the union used them as bargaining chips.
In a Sept. 7 letter first published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske wrote that state law required she include measures that propose raising taxes on sales and gambling on the 2022 ballot.
Neither Nevada’s powerful resort industry nor Democrats want tax measures to be presented before voters next year. Democrats are concerned that their inclusion could enable Republicans to frame next year’s election around taxes. Resorts and casinos don’t want to see a rise in taxes that would discourage tourists from Las Vegas.
The initiatives were initiated almost one year ago by the Clark County Education Association, which submitted the thousands of signatures required to qualify for the 2022 ballot.
The first proposal proposes increasing the percentage of sales taxes that is dedicated to school funding, from 2.6% to 4.1%. This would push sales taxes in Las Vegas up to almost 9.9%. The second proposal is to increase the gambling tax rate by 6. 75% to 9. 75%, with tax revenue directed to the state’s general fund for unrestricted spending.
John Vellardita was the executive director of the teachers union. He told in March that the measures were intended to “start a discussion” about education funding. He also said that they would remain on the ballot unless legislators increase education funding before June’s adjournment.
Lawmakers raised taxes on the mining sector and included a new statute in a bill about mail-in ballots, giving petitioners more freedom to withdraw their initiatives. On the final day of the legislative session, Vellardita credited his strategy for the passage of the taxes and said he intended to withdraw the initiatives from the ballot as promised.
Lawyers from Attorney General Aaron Ford wrote to Gov. in July amid discussions about Cegavske’s plans to stop Democrats from passing initiatives and keep them on the ballot. Cegavske wrote to the Attorney General, in a July letter. The lawyers from Aaron Ford’s office addressed the Governor. They claimed that the initiatives could legally been withdrawn, citing legislative intention and the absence any explicit prohibition.
In a subsequent letter to the Attorney general, Cegavske states that Ford’s legal opinion does not address the constitutional imperative.
Cegavske claims that the Constitution requires that the Secretary of State submit the question of approval of such statutes or amendments to statutes to the voters. The former Republican state senator says that the Legislature has consistently interpreted “shall” as imposing a condition, and not an option.
The Secretary o State oversees all elections and ballot initiatives in Nevada. The clash could lead to legal disputes over whether the tax measures should be included before November 2022..
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report For America , a national service program for journalists that places them in local newsrooms to cover undercovered topics, is a non-profit organization.