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October 4, 2015

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State teachers union bullish on tax plan as Supreme Court takes up case

Despite the anti-tax votes in Tuesday's election, the state teachers union is optimistic the 2013 Legislature will approve its plan for a business tax to support public schools.

It has more than 100,000 signatures of voters on its initiative petition and they will be presented Tuesday to the counties for verification of the names, says Nick Di Archangel, director of communications for the Nevada State Education Association.

Di Archangel says he thinks the petition has a good chance of gaining legislative approval.

The law requires 72,352 signatures on the initiative to be filed by the Tuesday deadline. And there must be 18,008 signatures in each of the four congressional districts.

At the same time, the Nevada Supreme Court has decided to speed up an appeal by the union over a ruling by a lower court that the petition is invalid.

The Supreme Court Wednesday filed an order that it will hear oral arguments on the first available date and all seven justices will be sitting on the case. The court said it will not be necessary for the union and its opponent, Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs, to file briefs, a normal procedure.

The court, in expediting the process, will examine the record in the case before Carson City District Judge James Wilson, who ruled the petition was faulty, misleading and could not be presented to the Legislature.

The initiative would impose a 2 percent margins tax on businesses with more than an annual income of $1 million. It is expected to raise $800 million a year to go toward funding the public schools.

The teachers union lost a key legislative ally with the defeat of Sheila Leslie in her run for the Senate in Washoe County. Leslie, who served in both the Assembly and Senate, supported the tax plan.

Gary Peck, executive director of the teachers union, said Leslie will be missed but this is not an issue for a single legislator.

Voters in Clark County rejected by a 66-34 percent margin a plan to raise the property tax to repair and build new schools. And tax increase initiatives in several other counties were voted down in the Tuesday election.

Peck says the union's tax plan is different from those on the ballots and has "substantially more than 100,000 signatures showing the breadth and depth of public support."

If the Supreme Court rules that the Education Initiative petition is valid it will be presented to the Legislature, which has 40 days to act on it. Peck said his association is talking to lawmakers and he is "optimistic we will gather the support needed."

If it fails to pass in the Legislature, it will go on the 2014 election ballot, and Peck says he is "very confident of public support."

Gov. Brian Sandoval and a number of legislators say funding education is a top priority, but preliminary figures show that while the economy is slowly recovering, there is not enough tax revenue for a major allocation to education.

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