(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – A business margin tax initiative petition filed with the Secretary of State’s office won’t see signature gathering efforts start right away because a legal challenge to the proposal is expected, a teachers union official said today.
But Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, who filed the petition to establish the tax that would bring in $800 million a year from large Nevada corporations, said it is expected to withstand any legal scrutiny. The language has been vetted by several attorneys, including association attorney James Penrose, she said.
“We usually go through about a month looking for any kind of legal challenges,” Warne said. “We expect that there will be some coming.”
NSEA President Lynn Warne answers questions about the margin tax proposal filed today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.
Even with delays due to legal efforts to derail the proposal, there will be no difficulty in collecting more than enough signatures from registered voters by November to put the proposal to the Legislature in 2013, she said. The Legislature has 40 days to approve the proposal or it goes to the voters in 2014.
Called the “Education Initiative”, the actual language implementing the 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year is 32 pages long.
Penrose said the mining industry would be required to pay the tax the same as other businesses. The gaming industry would pay the tax on non-gaming revenue, such as hotel operations.
Warne said a number of groups have expressed interest in joining with the teachers and the AFL-CIO in supporting the measure, which she said will created a broad-based business tax that will ensure public education won’t face further cuts to programs or require teacher layoffs.
While complex, Warne said she expects voters will support the margin tax proposal in 2014 should the Legislature fail to act.
“We believe that they (voters) are looking for a fair, broad-based tax but they are looking for funding for schools, for kids, to make sure Nevada moves off the bottom in per pupil expenditures,” she said.
If the tax proposal is approved by the Legislature in 2013, the liability would begin in 2014 with the first collection due in January 2015. If approved by voters in November 2014, the liability would begin in 2015 with the first collection due in January 2016.
Warne said the proposal relies on the Texas margin tax, and Assembly Bill 582 of the 2011 Nevada legislative session, for its implementation.
If implemented, the tax revenue would flow to the state general fund and not be earmarked for public education, but Warne said the revenue pie would expand and provide more money for the public schools.
“The Legislature will fund education as they deem appropriate,” she said. “There will just be more revenue for them to be able to appropriate to education. We hope they do so properly.”
While the language has just now been filed explaining how the tax would be levied, the proposal has already come in for criticism from a number of sources.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he opposes the tax and said tax policy discussions need to be considered by the Legislature, not at the ballot box.
Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller, who earlier this year proposed petitions to raise both the gaming and mining tax, called the margin tax a “destructive, terribly complex tax.” Miller had filed his proposals as a way to offer voters alternatives to a margin tax, which he anticipated would be sought by teachers, He dropped his efforts in April.
The Nevada Policy Research Institute has also criticized the tax. Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at NPRI, said in a statement issued Tuesday that a margins tax would be a “disaster” for Nevadans.