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Ed Vogel

Court to review gaming tax boost

15 April 2008

CARSON CITY, Nevada -- The Nevada Supreme Court will conduct a hearing on July 1 to determine whether a petition to increase the gaming tax should go on the November ballot.

Chief Justice Mark Gibbons set the tentative date to hear the Nevada Resort Association's appeal of a lower court decision, which allowed the Nevada State Education Association to circulate petitions.

"Nevada voters have a right to cast their ballots on appropriate matters and the Supreme Court will do whatever it can to prevent unnecessary delays," Gibbons said.

"These initiative cases usually present very difficult questions of law that must be decided in a short period of time, but I am confident the Supreme Court can resolve them in a timely manner," he said.

The NSEA petition asks voters to consider increasing the gaming tax rate of 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent. The additional tax would bring in $250 million to $400 million a year.

To enact the gaming tax increase, two rounds of voter approval are required, once in November and again in 2010. The tax increase would not be implemented before 2011.

The petition stipulates that the additional revenue would be used to pay for higher salaries for teachers and other school employees, except for administrators. The money also would be used for programs to increase student achievement.

The state education association needs to collect 58,836 signatures by May 20 to qualify the question for the November ballot. If it fails to meet that requirement, there will be no need for a Supreme Court appeal.

In an April 3 decision, Senior Supreme Court Justice Miriam Shearing threw out lawsuits filed by the resort association and Las Vegas Sands Inc. while acting as a district court judge.

The lawsuits challenged the legality of the gaming tax petition, asserting it violated a state law limiting petitions to a single subject.

The resort association appealed Shearing's decision to the Supreme Court.

Two years ago the Supreme Court removed a petition to limit government spending from the election ballot in part because it violated the single-subject law.