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November 24, 2014

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UNLV disowns its own study on margin tax

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UNLV President Don Snyder explains a slide to the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce members at the Four Seasons Hotel on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.

UNLV is wringing its hands over an economic study done by its Center for Business and Economic Research.

The center released the study on Tuesday and reported that the Education Initiative, also known as the margin tax, was a way to earn the state up to $862 million for Nevada’s K-12 education system while creating more than 13,000 jobs in 2016.

The center’s report “does not represent the position or views of the university,” UNLV acting President Donald D. Snyder said in a media release on Thursday.

“UNLV did not commission the study,” he said. “While CBER is a center within UNLV, it does not form part of the university’s day-to-day operations nor is it functionally aligned with our broader initiatives. It is an independent center.”

Snyder did not criticize the methodology used to conduct the study, but asked the nonpartisan think tank Brookings Institute to review its findings.

The initiative has been a political hot button since the end of the 2013 legislative session and the findings of the new study are contrary to other reports about the tax.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute conducted a study that found the tax will raise $862 million per year while costing the state 1,640 jobs and cutting investment by $7.1 million a year.

The institute is opposed to the tax.

Other UNLV faculty have authored or co-authored other reports on the tax, but the university says it does not have a position on the initiative.

The tax is a proposed 2 percent tax hike on businesses earning more than $1 million in revenue per year and a result of lawmakers not being able to find a way to agree to creating more revenue streams for Nevada’s public education system, which ranks last in the country.

Supporters of the tax collected more than 100,000 signatures from around the state to get the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Dan Hart, campaign manager for the Education Initiative, asked the university’s Center for Business and Economic Research to conduct the study because it would be “independent” from the partisan politics of the measure.

It is “extraordinary” that UNLV is questioning its own study, he said.

“I worry that there are politics involved in this,” he said.

The tax has seen little support from Democrats and other left-leaning organizations. The AFL-CIO at first touted the measure but then dropped its support. The only group backing the tax is the state’s teachers union.

Groups such as the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Nevada Association of Realtors, the Nevada Mining Association and the Nevada Resort Association oppose the tax.

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