The election may be months away, but in malls, on street corners, and even on your home television sets the battle over what will appear on the November ballot is reaching a climax. Activists for a variety of issues have just one week left to gather the needed number of signatures.
One petition drive is attracting well-financed opposition and, in recent days, a media buy. A conservative action group, the Citizen Outreach Project, is running television ads urging viewers not to sign the petition.
Here is an outline of the issue. The initiative, dubbed "save Our Schools with additional funding for salaries and student achievement" was launched by the Nevada State Education Association, the organization representing the state's teachers. It seeks to raise the gaming tax for casinos taking in a million dollars or more a month in gross revenue from 6 point 75 percent to 9 point 75 percent. The money would go into a separate supplemental account for teacher’s salaries and student achievement.
The teachers say this would still leave Nevada gaming taxes among the lowest in the nation. The gaming industry says it would amount to a 44 percent increase and would cripple smaller casinos with low margins.
That's the issue. Here's the ad.
"Class is in session. Topic Union Tax Grab 101
Teachers' Union bosses are circulating political petitions calling for huge tax increases with no accountability.
What does this mean for our kids?
New text books? No
Additional school supplies? No
School house upgrades? No
Increased security to keep our kids safe? No
So, where is all this money going?
Out of Nevada's economy and into union member's pockets.
Stop. Think. And don't sign on to the Union Tax Grab."
We'll take another look, point by point, but first, a couple of observations.
The ad refers repeatedly to unions: Union bosses, Union members, Union tax grab. We should remember we're talking about teachers who may or may not be dues paying members of the Education Association. A small point, but it's easier to slam unions than your son's English teacher.
Second, nowhere in the Ad is the word gaming or casinos mentioned, but that's also what we're talking about. Instead the ad refers to a "huge Nevada tax increase" and "Nevada's economy" as if the state itself and the gaming industry were one and the same.
OK, here is a line by line analysis:
"Class is in session. Topic Union Tax Grab 101
Teachers' Union bosses are circulating political petitions calling for huge tax increases with no accountability."
FALSE. We have to call this claim false. Yes, this would be a big tax increase for the casinos. More than they say they can afford, but it's the claim there would be no accountability that's key. In fact, the initiative does require an annual report from each school district or charter school to the state School Superintendent detailing how the money received from the supplemental account was spent.
"What does this mean for our kids?
New Text Books? No.
Additional school supplies? No."
NOT NECESSARILY. One of the two uses for the supplemental account is student achievement. It would be up to the individual school districts to decide how to spend that money to meet that aim. It could be to support a number of things, such as after school tutoring programs or text books or supplies. Those uses would, however, be subject to collective bargaining agreements with individual teachers' associations.
"School house upgrades? No."
TRUE. This is true. None of the money collected from this tax would go to capital expenditures. That's what school bonds are for. Washoe County voters may see a question proposing new revenue sources to upgrade existing schools. Separate issue. Separate question.
"Increased security to keep our kids safe? No."
TRUE. This would appear to be true. It might be argued that more teachers and counselors might make schools safer, but it's doubtful the money could be spent specifically on security personnel.
"So, where is all this money going?
Out of Nevada's economy and into union member's pockets."
FALSE AND MISLEADING. This is by definition false and misleading. The money would come from the state's gaming industry, but it's more than a stretch to say it would come out of the state's economy. Any extra money that goes to teachers' salaries would, of course, stay in Nevada, be spent in our businesses, stores, restaurants, even in our casinos.
The ad's authors might have tried to make the case that this tax increase's impact on the gaming industry might hurt the state's economy. They chose instead to mislead.
"Stop. Think. And don't sign on to the Union Tax Grab."
As always that's your call.
Bottom line: This initiative and any other should stand up to a close reading and informed consideration. We wish we could have seen more of that and less deceptive, loaded language in this ad.