(Riley Snyder, Associated Press) – CARSON CITY — A group of conservative Nevada Republicans are trying to place on the 2016 ballot at least part of a $1.4 billion tax package approved and supported by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
State Controller Ron Knecht, Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers and former Assemblyman Ed Goedhart have pledged to lead a ballot measure repealing SB483, which was approved by the governor earlier in June.
Knecht, who proposed an alternative budget during the legislative session that received scant attention, said the approved bill goes against the will of voters who defeated a business margins-based tax 2014. He said the governor has lost touch with the party base, and that grassroots Republicans and businesses were united in disdain for the tax increase.
“People are so upset about this that they’re all putting their ego aside and not saying how can I elbow out everyone else, but saying how can we work together,” he said. “It’s kind of a cold anger, rather than a hot rage.”
SB483 raises or extends around $1.4 billion in taxes, which Sandoval touted as necessary to help invest in the state’s K-12 education system.
Conservative activist Chuck Muth, who is helping to organize the so-called “We Decide Coalition,” said he hasn’t formed a political action committee yet, but he is looking into working with an anti-tax PAC created by Carson City talk show host Theresa Catalani.
But Muth said the proposed referendum could run into logistical problems, including the state’s single-subject rule for ballot measures. Because SB483 changes a number of state laws, Muth said it’s unclear if repealing all parts of the bill can be put on the ballot.
He’s also concerned that potential contributors could shy away from helping put it on the ballot because of expanded requirements for fiscal disclosures for ballot initiatives. “There are some donors who will simply not give if their names are disclosed because they’re scared to death of retribution,” Muth said.
Catalini, who founded the NV80 PAC earlier in June, said her group was focused on repealing the “Commerce Tax” portion of the bill because of the single subject rule on ballot measures. She said she fears that the tax could be expanded in future sessions, and wanted to kill it now.
“If we repeal this,” Catalini said, “Then it will be set in stone. It’ll be gone completely.”
Muth estimated that the process would cost around $350,000 to both hire a professional signature-gathering firm and to fend off expected legal challenges.
The group could potentially start to gather signatures in August, but Muth said it could take longer for the group to get organized. Any voter-driven referendum has until June 2016 to collect signatures and must gather more than 55,000 signatures in each of the state’s four congressional districts.
[CORRECTION: A total of around 55,000 signatures is needed statewide, equally divided between the four congressional districts, not 55,000 from *each* congressional district.]
Knecht said grassroots conservatives and several businesses will support the effort, but he acknowledged it could be difficult facing off against the establishment wing of the Republican Party. “We’ll find out whether it can pass or not. But I think it has a fighting chance,” Knecht said.