Nevada Teachers Group Pushing Higher Casino Taxes

A Nevada teachers group announced plans Monday to push a ballot initiative calling for higher taxes on the state's biggest casinos to get more money for the state's K-12 school system.

The Nevada State Education Association initiative would add another 3 percent tax on gambling revenues collected by Nevada's biggest casinos, those that gross more than $1 million a month.

It would raise the taxes for such clubs to 9.75 percent, and generate
more than $200 million a year.

"There is nothing more important than increasing educators' salaries, benefits and improving their working conditions as well as the learning conditions of students," said Lynn Warne, NSEA president.

"We have chosen to stand to make a difference and we will not quietly submit to the idea that there is nothing we can do," Warne added in a statement on the plan approved by the NSEA's board of directors over the weekend.

The proposal would have to win voter approval in the 2008 and 2010 elections before it could take effect.

Bill Bible, head of the Nevada Gaming Association, challenged the plan, saying, "Everyone knows and understands that if you raise taxes you reduce investment and the amount of jobs that are created as a result of that investment."

Bible also said that the resorts agree with the teachers on the need for quality education, but added, "The problem with this particular proposal is that it targets one industry ... and doesn't bring other payers to the table."

The casino industry already funds one-third of the cost of public education in Nevada, he added. During the 2007 session, state lawmakers approved $2.3 billion for K-12 education, or just over half of all state general fund dollars, for the two-year budget cycle that ends in mid-2009.