Newspaper column: Whether you get to vote on tax hike will be up to the courts

One of these days, perhaps, you will be able to go online and download and sign a petition calling for the repeal of the $1.4 billion in tax hikes — a nearly 17 percent increase in state spending — approved by your Republican-majority Nevada Legislature and signed by your Republican governor just months after the voters rejected two tax hikes at the ballot box — one of them by a margin of 4-to-1.

Earlier this summer a group calling themselves the We Decide Coalition filed such an initiative with Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, asking that the matter go before the voters in November 2016.

The filing included a verbatim copy of the 100-page Senate Bill 483, which created a commerce tax (similar to the voter-rejected margin tax), hiked the cigarette tax $1 a pack, adjusted the payroll tax, made permanent certain “temporary” taxes, hiked business license fees, changed taxes on mining (a version of which was also rejected by voters), etc.

Knowing full well the initiative would be challenged in court because it addressed more than a single subject as required by law, a legislative land mine that has blown up many a petition effort, the group filed a pre-emptive lawsuit asking that the petition be declared a single subject because it addresses only one bill or, in the alternative, that SB483 be jettisoned as unconstitutional.

Brian Sandoval

The state Constitution requires: “Each law enacted by the Legislature shall embrace but one subject, and matter, properly connected therewith, which subject shall be briefly expressed in the title …”

Repeal proponents point out that SB483 amends 41 chapters and hundreds of sections, and amends, adds or deletes more than 87 separate freestanding sections of state law.

The status of that lawsuit is unclear since a group calling itself the Coalition for Nevada’s Future filed another suit in another state court challenging the legal standing of the petition over the single-subject law and over its “Description of Effect” filed with the repeal effort. Instead of describing the effect of repealing the law or letting it stand, the We Decide Coalition simply cut and pasted SB483’s title.

The suit points out that Nevada law “requires that an initiative petition set forth, in not more than 200 words, a ‘description of the effect of the initiative or referendum if the initiative or referendum is approved by the voters.’ The purpose of the description of effect is to help prevent voter confusion and promote informed decisions. The description of effect cannot be materially misleading, nor fail to identify the consequences of a referendum’s passage, and it must be straightforward, succinct, and nonargumentative.”

Chuck Muth

One of the instigators of the petition, Chuck Muth, conceded the latter point and said the group plans to refile its petition with a new and improved description of effect.

Once that is done, the other coalition is expected to file suit against that petition and start the whole process over again.

There is a possibility somewhere along the line that someone might raise the issue of whether every state judge has a conflict of interest. Were the voters to get a chance to slash the state budget by nearly 17 percent, who knows where the cuts in spending might trickle down. To the courts, perhaps? But it is hard to see how federal courts could have jurisdiction in what are basically conflicts under state law and constitution.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has promised to fight the repeal effort tooth and nail, calling the petition “a wrongheaded attack on the children and families of Nevada. Supported by more than seventy percent of legislators, the revenue the petition seeks to eliminate will go directly to the classroom and give teachers the resources to deliver a quality education.”

Of course, the governor fails to note that the state has increased education spending 80 percent per pupil, adjusted for inflation, over the past 40 years with no detectible effect on student test scores.

More than a few legal knots will have to be untangled before we find out whether the voters themselves will get a chance to say whether they agree or not with this massive increase in spending and taxation.

A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

17 comments on “Newspaper column: Whether you get to vote on tax hike will be up to the courts

  1. nyp says:

    BREAKING: Economy grew at 3.9 percent rate in spring, helped by stronger consumer and business spending.

    I blame that job-killing ObamaCare.

  2. “the percentage of adult Americans working or actively looking for a job stands at 62.6 percent, the lowest level in nearly four decades.”

  3. nyp says:

    You think that might just possibly have something to do with the fact that over the past four decades the American population has been steadily aging as the baby boomers get older?
    You think?

  4. Steve says:

    Old people can’t look for work?

  5. nyp says:

    hard to do so w/ a walker.

  6. Steve says:

    age discrimination

    bad lib

  7. Patrick says:

    Age discrimination

    Good conservative

  8. Steve says:

    Old people aren’t allowed to work?

  9. Patrick says:

    Old people ought to be working?

  10. Rincon says:

    Please forgive Steve. Political conservatism encourages normally intelligent people to stop thinking. It may not have occured to him that anyone not looking for work with an unemployment rate of 5.1% probably isn’t very interested in working and that some older people voluntarily retire.

  11. Some some don’t voluntarily retire.

  12. Steve says:

    Cherry picking statistics is a way to claim things are great! Reality is very different and about 35% of the “new workforce” is comprised of independent subcontractors. The real number of unemployed is actually staggering.

    I had phone interviews the last two days, count me in the looking category.

    And the company that downsized me is Checkpoint Systems.
    When I decided to take employment with them their Glassdoor rating was 3 stars. That has changed. (my severance pay is complete, ending the main portion of the agreement I needed to abide by to keep the money flowing. Now we begin some inheritance, cost basis money) I have not yet added to this site, I will be in the next week or so.

  13. Unfortunately…the courts don’t have a particularly stellar track record as of late…let’s hope they get this one right. The good citizens of the Battle Born State deserve an opportunity to weigh in on this…AGAIN!

  14. Rincon says:

    “Reality is very different and about 35% of the “new workforce” is comprised of independent subcontractors.” Probably true. The rich get more of the pie than ever. No need to pay the drones very much. Keeps profits up. Good ol’ capitalism at work.

  15. Steve says:

    But there is nothing wrong with going by a set of stats that could be figured in such a way as to show zero unemployment with zero people employed, or is that the way it’s supposed to be since the economy is shown to have the best employment figures when Democrats are in the Whitehouse?

    OR are we told more factual information when Republicans are in charge?

    Mean old scrooged, angry conservatives VS feelgood, rainbows and unicorns liberals.

  16. Rincon says:

    Both do a great deal of harm when their extreme views are wrong.

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