You won’t often see a teachers’ union advocate against a vote that could provide tax dollars for a state’s public schools. However, that’s exactly what’s happened in the case of a Nevada gambling ballot initiative.
A judge in the state recently gave the proponents of the measure a victory in allowing them to request to have it pulled from consideration for voters this fall. The unlikely scenario is a result of negotiations in Carson City.
Judge rules in Nevada gambling ballot initiative case
Last week, NV District Court Judge James Wilson ruled that the state’s constitution does not bar groups who originally pushed for ballot measures potentially amending the charter to request to have such measures removed before the ballots are finalized. The story of why Wilson was deliberating on that matter is an interesting one.
Starting early last year, the Clark County Educators Association championed a new amendment to the state’s constitution. It would have hiked the national-low 6.75% tax rate that casinos in Nevada pay on their gaming revenue to 9.75%.
Furthermore, the extra funds would have gone to support public education in the state. So why the complete reversal by the CCEA? You could say the ballot measure was a bargaining chip.
Nevada mining industry, not casinos, will pay up
The CCEA was successful in getting enough support to have NV Sec. of State Barbara Cegavske certify their measure for the ballot this fall. That was when legislators in the state capitol sprang to action.
Later last year, legislation was enacted to raise taxes on the state’s mining industry. That increase is already in effect. It was a quid pro quo with the CCEA. The state earmarked the new funds for education.
In exchange, the CCEA agreed to ask Cegavske to pull the measure from the ballot. Cegavske declined, however. She said that according to her reading of the state’s constitution, she did not have the authority to do so.
The measure has some support from the public if it goes forward as Cegavske wants. Polling in the state shows that a plurality of registered voters would approve it.
Despite that, the CCEA filed suit against Cegavske, and now Judge Wilson has found in their favor. The metaphorical ball now rests firmly in Cegavske’s court.
Will this be the end of the story in Nevada?
It’s unclear whether Cegavske will appeal her office’s loss in this dispute. Her office hasn’t commented on that subject one way or the other yet. To date, there are no further filings.
She may take some time to review Judge Wilson’s ruling. At face value, a finding that nothing in the constitution prevents her from removing the measure from the ballot isn’t an order for her to do so.
Still at issue is the math of the situation. According to the Associated Press, the 3% hike in the casino tax would have produced an extra $800 million for education in the state each year.
The uptick in the mining tax will produce a rather pedestrian $85 million instead. So why would the CCEA agree to a compromise that provided about 1/10 of the funding? To avoid taking on a behemoth.
CCEA avoids tangling with Nevada casinos
If the ballot measure does survive, Nevadans could see a lot of messaging trying to sway public opinion against its ratification. Such a marketing campaign would have all the financial might of the state’s gambling industry behind it.
The phrase “a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush” is applicable here. Instead of risking it all going for the big win of raising the casino tax by nearly 50%, the CCEA might have effectively settled for a guaranteed smaller return.
It could still come down to casinos vs. teachers this November in Nevada, but that appears unlikely at this point. For certain, this is one of the few times you’ll ever see a group of educators asking a judge to help them take a funding measure off a ballot.