Posts Tagged ‘gaming tax’

Carson City Judge Rejects Gaming Tax Petition, Supporters Say They Will File New Version

By Sean Whaley | 4:06 pm April 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A Carson City District judge today rejected an initiative petition proposing to create a new and higher rate of taxation for Nevada’s largest casinos, finding that the 200 word description of effect of the measure was misleading.

In rejecting the petition, Judge James Todd Russell said he did not believe he had the authority to rewrite the description himself.

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller, who attended the hearing on his proposed gaming tax hike, said he will file a new proposal with the Secretary of State’s office reflecting Russell’s concerns and begin the signature gathering effort all over again.

The proposed petition was challenged by the Nevada Resort Association, which cited several concerns with the measure, including the use of the term “unrestricted” instead of  “nonrestricted” to identify the affected gaming properties, and the use of the term “gross revenue” instead of “gross gaming revenue.”

Miller, through a group called Nevadans for a Fair 9% Gambling Revenue Tax (NF9GRT), filed the initiative petition in February. It would set a new tax rate of 9 percent on net casino gambling revenue above $250,000 per calendar month.

Under current law, net casino gambling revenue in excess of $134,000 per calendar month is taxed at a 6.75 percent rate.

Las Vegas attorney Maggie McLetchie, representing Miller’s group, argued that Russell could rewrite the description of effect for the proposed petition, thus allowing the signature gathering process to begin again without the potential for a new legal challenge.

Attorney Maggie McLetchie and Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller talk with the press after a court ruling against their gaming tax petition. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

But Carson City attorney Matt Griffin, representing the resort association, said Russell did not have the authority to rewrite the proposal, which would in effect take away the association’s due process rights.

The description is flawed and the only solution is to reject the petition and require a new one to be filed, he said.

After the hearing, McLetchie said the NRA is using the legal process to stall the petition effort.

“They are obviously trying to exploit a process that is in place to ensure that voters are informed about the effects of a law to try to drag this out for as long as possible,” she said. “And I think it is unfortunate and I think it is antithetical to the very nature of the initiative process.”

McLetchie said judges have in the past rewritten descriptions of effect on other initiative petitions.

“The interest of the NRA is in trying to delay this process for as long as possible,” she said. “Our interest is trying to get this into the hands of the voters.”

The group has until Nov. 13 to collect 72,352 valid signatures from Nevada voters to send the proposal to the Nevada Legislature in 2013. If the Legislature does not enact the proposal within 40 days, it would go to voters in 2014 and take effect in 2015 if approved. The Legislature could also opt to put a competing proposal on the ballot for voters to consider.

The Legislature would have to get a two-thirds vote to approve the tax hike on casinos instead of sending it to the voters. But Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes said a competing tax proposal dealing with the same subject could be placed on the 2014 ballot by a simple majority vote of the Legislature because voters would have the final say.

If both measures received more than 50 percent of the vote, the one receiving the largest number of votes would take effect.

Miller said he is pursing the gaming tax option in the face of a possible business profits tax appearing on the ballot in 2014 as well. The gaming tax, and another petition that could lead to an increase in the mining tax, would be on the ballot as alternatives to a business tax, he said.

Miller said the proposed business profits tax is a bad idea.

State AFL-CIO leader Danny Thompson said earlier this month his labor group is moving forward with a broad-based business profits tax ballot measure to raise money for education. It would assess a 2 percent tax on net profits in excess of $500,000.

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Audio clips:

Las Vegas attorney Maggie McLetchie says the NRA is trying to stall the petition:

041112McLetchie1 :09 long as possible.”

McLetchie says the group just wants to get the proposal to the voters:

041112McLetchie2 :07 of the voters.”

 

 

Teachers Union President “Excited” That Business Profits Tax Ballot Proposal Moving Forward

By Sean Whaley | 1:56 pm April 9th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The president of the powerful state teachers union said today she is “excited” that another labor organization, the AFL-CIO, plans to pursue a business profits tax initiative petition.

“It will be a big deal,” said Lynn Warne, head of the Nevada State Education Association. “We’re excited that Danny (Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO) has decided to move forward with this. Anything we can do about funding our schools adequately in this state is great.”

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

Warne did not say in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program that the teachers’ union will be throwing its weight behind the petition drive, however.

Thompson said last week his group will push forward to collect the 72,352 signatures by  November 13 to take the tax proposal to the 2013 Legislature. Lawmakers will have 40 days to approve the proposal or it will go to the voters in 2014. Lawmakers could also offer a competing tax proposal to appear on the ballot, but a two-thirds vote would be required to move any tax measure forward in the Legislature.

Thompson said the proposed tax, which would be assessed on net business profits in excess of $500,000 at a rate of 2 percent, has been projected by some analysts to bring in about $1 billion a year to the state general fund. The money would go to fund public and higher education. The initiative petition has not yet been filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun last week, Warne said the teachers union has not signed off on Thompson’s proposed tax petition because of concerns regarding the language. Warne said she supports in concept the effort by to raise money for schools.

The teachers union had indicated in January that it would sign on to the tax proposal.

In the NewsMakers interview, Warne said 2014 could be a major election year in Nevada with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval up for re-election and a business profits tax measure on the ballot as well.

Sandoval has moved “a bit in the direction of needing to keep our education budgets whole,” she said. But Sandoval’s plan to continue a package of taxes set to sunset on June 30, 2013 into the next budget to avoid further cuts to education is inadequate, Warne said.

“We’re still at funding levels that are lower than the 2003 funding for the education budget, so no, it’s not enough and I think the governor would acknowledge that as well,” she said. “But it’s going to help.”

Warne said the two competing tax measures being pushed by Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller, one seeking to give the Legislature the authority to raise the mining tax and a second that would increase the gaming tax on the state’s largest casinos, are being pursued to confuse voters about the business tax proposal.

“Mining and gaming are the low hanging fruit in this state in terms of targets for tax increases,” she said. “And so Monte has picked those. There are a lot of questions as to his sincerity as to whether or not he would want to see those move forward. He has even made comments that should gaming try and strangle Danny’s effort then he will back off his gaming initiatives.”

Warne said the association has never had any discussions with Miller regarding his two petitions.

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Audio clips:

NSEA President Lynn Warne says the association is excited the AFL-CIO is moving forward with a business profits tax:

040912Warne1 :13 adequately is great.”

Warne says Sandoval’s plan to continue the sunsetting taxes isn’t enough but it will help:

040912Warne2 :18 going to help.”

Warne says there are questions as to whether Monte Miller is sincere about his tax petitions:

040912Warne3 :18 those move forward.”

Nevada Political Consultant Warns Against Setting Tax Policy At The Ballot Box

By Sean Whaley | 3:46 pm February 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Long-time political consultant and former state lawmaker Pete Ernaut said today that efforts to use the ballot box to set tax policy could handcuff the ability of the governor and Legislature to make critical decisions on the future of the state.

“It should be warning to everybody because this is something that could very rapidly turn into the next iteration of the California ballot, where we have 10, 12, 13 ballot measures on a number of issues and you wake up one day and really you’ve taken the power away from the Legislature or the governor to make any decisions,” he said.

Political consultant Pete Ernaut.

“And that’s really what they’re struggling with in California more than anything else is you have this entire apparatus in the California state Legislature that essentially has the ability to make decisions on about 5 percent or 6 percent of the entire California budget,” Ernaut said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show. “If we’re not careful, that’s the way that it will go.”

Ernaut’s comments were in response to a question about the possibility of several tax proposals qualifying for the state ballot in the next few election cycles. Ernaut is president of government and public affairs with R&R Partners.

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller is pursing two initiative petitions, one to raise the gaming tax rate on the state’s largest casinos, and another to amend the state constitution to permit the tax rate on the mining industry to be increased.

Miller said he is pursing the tax proposals to ensure there are some options on the table for policy makers if state labor and education leaders move forward with a Texas-style margin tax on business to increase funding for education. No such petition has been filed yet with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.

Ernaut acknowledged that there is an undercurrent of frustration regarding Nevada’s current tax policy, with gaming and mining questioning the fairness and balance of the system, and some in the business community in turn concerned they are being pressured by the gaming and mining industries.

Nevada’s improving economy could help defuse the intensity of the tax debate and allow for a more measured, methodical and thoughtful discussion of what the state’s tax structure should look like down the road, “rather than with a pistol to somebody’s forehead, which is what it seems like it’s been,” he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval also spoke out recently in opposition to the tax-related ballot measures, saying those discussions belong in the Legislature.

“I believe initiative petitions are a poor way to set tax policy,” Sandoval said.

But Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, who first mentioned the possibility of a business tax ballot proposal in November 2011, said at the time it is the Legislature’s inability to make tax decisions that has generated the interest in going directly to the voters instead.

Nevada has a two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to increase taxes or fees.

“We are looking seriously at this process because the legislative process is an impossible one,” he said. “With the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, what in effect that does – it has the minority control the majority wishes. You cannot solve the problem at the Legislature alone without some help from the people.”

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Audio clips:

Long-time political consultant Pete Ernaut warns against setting tax policy at the ballot box:

022712Ernaut1 :23 make any decisions.”

Ernaut says the California Legislature is handcuffed because of the numerous ballot measures approved by voters:

022712Ernaut2 :15 it will go.”

Ernaut says an improving Nevada economy could help lower the intensity level of the tax policy debate:

022712Ernaut3 :19 like it’s been.”

 

Sandoval Opposes Tax Petitions, Says Revenue Discussions Belong At Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 3:12 pm February 10th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he opposes the initiative petitions filed by Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller to raise gaming and mining tax rates.

“I believe initiative petitions are a poor way to set tax policy,” Sandoval said when asked about the measures that could eventually go before Nevada voters. “I’ve advised Mr. Miller, who is a friend, that I do, respectfully, oppose the petitions.

“For an issue of that import I think it is critical that it would be debated at the legislative level and not be of the initiative petition process,” he said.

Graphic from Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

Sandoval, who has opposed tax increases generally because of a desire to keep Nevada a friendly state for business creation and job development, said he would not object to a tax policy discussion at the 2013 legislative session, which is now less than a year away.

Using the initiative process, which requires voter approval, takes decisions about tax policy out of the hands of the governor and Legislature.

Miller said he has filed the two initiative petitions to ensure there are alternatives to a Texas-style margin tax that is expected to be filed by labor and education groups to raise additional money for public education.

The margin tax proposal is expected to be headed up by Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, but no such measure has been filed yet with the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We are looking seriously at this process because the legislative process is an impossible one,” Thompson said in an interview in November 2011. “With the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, what in effect that does – it has the minority control the majority wishes. You cannot solve the problem at the Legislature alone without some help from the people.”

Nevada has a two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.

Miller last week filed a petition to amend the state constitution to allow the cap on mining taxes to be increased from 5 percent to 9 percent. If approved by voters, this proposal would actually leave the decision on whether to raise the tax rate in the hands of the governor and Legislature.

On Tuesday Miller filed his petition to change state law to raise the tax rate on the state’s biggest casinos from 6.75 percent to 9 percent. If approved by voters, the increase would take effect in 2015 and could not be changed by the Legislature for at least three years. The practical effect of this constitutional provision would be that the Legislature could not change the tax rate for at least two sessions of the Legislature.

Casinos with revenues of more than $250,000 a month would be subject to the higher tax rate under Miller’s proposal.

It is not easy to qualify a measure for the ballot in Nevada.

For a constitutional amendment, which would have to be approved by voters twice before it could take effect, supporters would need to collect 72,352 valid signatures by June 19. It would appear on the November 2012 ballot.

For a change to state law, supporters would need to gather the same number of signatures by Nov. 13 to send the proposal to the Nevada Legislature in 2013. If the Legislature did not enact the proposal, it would go to voters in 2014 and take effect in 2015 if approved. The Legislature could also opt to put a competing proposal on the ballot for voters to consider.

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Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he opposes using the initiative petition process to address tax policy:

021012Sandoval1 :11 oppose the petitions.”

Sandoval says tax policy should be debated at the Legislature:

021012Sandoval2 :09 initiative petition process.”