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Sandoval opposes tax petitions, says revenue discussions belong at legislature


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he opposes the initiative petitions filed by Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller to raise gaming and mining tax rates.

“I believe initiative petitions are a poor way to set tax policy,” Sandoval said when asked about the measures that could eventually go before Nevada voters. “I’ve advised Mr. Miller, who is a friend, that I do, respectfully, oppose the petitions.

“For an issue of that import I think it is critical that it would be debated at the legislative level and not be of the initiative petition process,” he said.

Graphic from Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

Sandoval, who has opposed tax increases generally because of a desire to keep Nevada a friendly state for business creation and job development, said he would not object to a tax policy discussion at the 2013 legislative session, which is now less than a year away.

Using the initiative process, which requires voter approval, takes decisions about tax policy out of the hands of the governor and Legislature.

Miller said he has filed the two initiative petitions to ensure there are alternatives to a Texas-style margin tax that is expected to be filed by labor and education groups to raise additional money for public education.

The margin tax proposal is expected to be headed up by Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, but no such measure has been filed yet with the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We are looking seriously at this process because the legislative process is an impossible one,” Thompson said in an interview in November 2011. “With the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, what in effect that does – it has the minority control the majority wishes. You cannot solve the problem at the Legislature alone without some help from the people.”

Nevada has a two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.

Miller last week filed a petition to amend the state constitution to allow the cap on mining taxes to be increased from 5 percent to 9 percent. If approved by voters, this proposal would actually leave the decision on whether to raise the tax rate in the hands of the governor and Legislature.

On Tuesday Miller filed his petition to change state law to raise the tax rate on the state’s biggest casinos from 6.75 percent to 9 percent. If approved by voters, the increase would take effect in 2015 and could not be changed by the Legislature for at least three years. The practical effect of this constitutional provision would be that the Legislature could not change the tax rate for at least two sessions of the Legislature.

Casinos with revenues of more than $250,000 a month would be subject to the higher tax rate under Miller’s proposal.

It is not easy to qualify a measure for the ballot in Nevada.

For a constitutional amendment, which would have to be approved by voters twice before it could take effect, supporters would need to collect 72,352 valid signatures by June 19. It would appear on the November 2012 ballot.

For a change to state law, supporters would need to gather the same number of signatures by Nov. 13 to send the proposal to the Nevada Legislature in 2013. If the Legislature did not enact the proposal, it would go to voters in 2014 and take effect in 2015 if approved. The Legislature could also opt to put a competing proposal on the ballot for voters to consider.

Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he opposes using the initiative petition process to address tax policy:

021012Sandoval1 :11 oppose the petitions.”

Sandoval says tax policy should be debated at the Legislature:

021012Sandoval2 :09 initiative petition process.”

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