Las Vegas Sun

July 5, 2015

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Judge questions education tax petition

CARSON CITY — A District Court judge says he has concerns whether an initiative petition is valid to impose a tax on businesses to support public schools.

Judge James Wilson heard arguments on a lawsuit filed by a business group to block the tax initiative and said he would rule “as quickly as I can.”

Josh Hicks, attorney for the Committee to Protect Jobs, said he expected the case to end up before the Nevada Supreme Court, regardless of how Wilson rules.

Gary Peck, executive director of the Nevada State Education Association, said he remains confident that the petition will be allowed to move forward.

The teachers union has gathered 55,000 to 60,000 of the required 73,000 signatures required for the initiative, he said. The deadline to gather signatures is Nov. 13.

Wilson said he had “some concern” that the required 200-word summary of the petition adequately describes the 25-page petition.

Wilson had previously found that an initiative petition was defective, and the education association filed an amended version in August and started gathering signatures.

Francis Flaherty, attorney for the teachers’ union, said there is nothing misleading about the summary of the petition. He said the proceeds from the tax go into the state’s distributive school fund that supports education.

Flaherty said Wilson cannot speculate how the money will be used and whether the Legislature can withdraw state general funds from the distribute school account once the added tax revenue comes in.

If successful, the petition will be presented to the 2013 Legislature, which must act within 40 days to pass it. If it fails in the Legislature, the issue goes on the general election ballot in 2014.

The 2 percent tax is imposed on businesses with at least $1 million in annual revenue.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who says education is his top priority, has said he will not sign the tax petition into law.

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