Las Vegas Sun

January 20, 2018

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UNLV economists say margin tax study is not opinionated

UNLV economists are standing behind the results of a study they conducted on a controversial tax initiative that was assailed by acting school president Don Snyder.

Stephen Brown, director of the school’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said in a statement that the center's “expert team” did not “offer an opinion” in their study of the Education Initiative, a proposed 2 percent tax hike on businesses earning more than $1 million in revenue per year that will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Brown's comments, first published by political journalist Jon Ralston, follow a statement Snyder issued last week that said the center’s report “does not represent the position or views of the university.”

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

The initiative, also known as the margin tax, is a hot-button issue this election season. Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature have been unable to hash out a deal to provide more money to the state’s bottom-tier education system. Supporters of the tax collected more than 100,000 signatures from around the state to get the measure on the ballot.

Dan Hart, campaign manager for the Education Initiative, paid the center to do the study. He told the Las Vegas Sun last week that he was worried that “politics” were influencing Snyder’s comments.

“The purpose of the work was to estimate the educational and economic effects of the education initiative — including the margin tax and the K-12 education spending it would support,” Brown said. "We were not asked for nor did we offer an opinion about whether the Education Initiative represents sound economic policy."

The study concluded that the tax could earn the state up to $862 million for Nevada’s K-12 education system while creating more than 13,000 jobs in 2016.

The results of the UNLV analysis vary from other research that’s been done on the tax.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a right-leaning think tank, 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.

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