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Transport Workers Union gets behind margin tax

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 | 12:36 p.m.

A union representing 2,000 casinos employees is throwing its support behind the Education Initiative, also known as the margin tax.

The endorsement from the Transport Workers Union of America Local 721 is much needed for backers of the initiative, a proposed 2 percent tax hike on businesses earning more than $1 million a year in revenue.

The tax has come under fire from small-business owners and has been a hot-button issue on the campaign trail, as voters ask questions about Nevada’s ranking as having the worst public school system in the country.

In opposition to the tax are Republicans and organizations such as the Nevada Resort Association, the Nevada Mining Association and the Nevada Association of Realtors.

The state’s teacher’s union has offered the majority of support for the campaign while many likely backers have tiptoed away from the tax. The AFL-CIO and the state’s powerful Democratic politicians haven’t endorsed it.

The transport union formed in Nevada five years ago and is using the initiative as touchstone to start making a name for itself in politics.

“We welcome their support,” said Dan Hart, campaign manager for the Education Initiative.

The union’s local chapter represents gaming dealers at some of the Strip’s big-name casinos like The Wynn, Caesars, Bally’s, Paris and Harrah’s.

“We are going to be a force to be reckoned with down the road,” said Rick Towers, the union’s political liaison.

The union’s executive board announced its support to union members in a letter earlier this month asking them to “consider becoming more engaged in the political and legislative process on the state level and to help build a collective union voice in our community.”

“Everybody has to quit putting their head in the sand,” Towers said. “We’re sick and tired of everyone dodging what needs to be done.”

The initiative is a result of legislative inaction in Carson City.

Democrats and Republicans 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 Nov. 4 ballot.

Karen Griffin, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Defeat the Margin Tax, wasn’t surprised that the union offered its support.

Casino revenues will be exempt from the tax.

“These dealers probably wouldn’t be losing their jobs,” she said.

The effect of the tax on jobs and state revenues is the object of much debate.

A recent UNLV study said 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 university’s acting president, Don Snyder, waylaid the findings and asked the nonpartisan Brookings Institution to review them.

A study commissioned by Griffin’s group said the tax would raise $700 million but cost the private sector more than 8,000 jobs.

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