Poll: Nevadans Oppose Limiting Officerholders, Split on Taxes

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Nevadans were split on a proposed initiative to roll back most of the $836 million in tax increases approved by the Legislature, and a majority of the state's residents oppose an initiative to ban public employees from holding elected office, a new poll shows.

About 53 percent of survey respondent oppose limiting who can hold office - a question raised after some state lawmakers were accused of "double-dipping." A statewide poll published Friday showed 41 percent support the public employee ban and 7 percent were undecided.

The telephone poll of 601 Nevadans was conducted Oct. 24-28 by Magellan Research of Las Vegas for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The poll had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll also found 45 percent of respondents favor cutting the $836 million in tax increases passed by the 2003 Legislature to $131 million, while 43 percent would opt to keep the tax increases. Twelve percent had no opinion or were undecided.

The leader of a group gathering signatures to place the two initiatives on the ballot called the poll's findings phenomenal.

"People really haven't heard about the tax issue yet. This tells me there is a natural core of a majority of voters that wants to repeal the tax increase," said George Harris of Nevadans for Sound Government.

Gov. Kenny Guinn, who spearheaded the move to raise taxes, questioned whether support for repealing taxes would be as high if citizens realized what would have to be cut from the state budget. He said all state welfare programs, support for nursing homes, indigent health care and a senior prescription drug program would be cut. Staff at state prisons would be reduced dramatically, he said.

Guinn said "$131 million won't even cover the salary increases the Legislature gave teachers."

If the group secures 51,235 valid signatures by the spring, the proposals will be placed on the November 2004 ballot. The proposed constitutional amendment to ban government employees from holding elected office would have to be supported by voters in 2004 and 2006 to be approved.

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, a UNLV professor, said she was pleased there wasn't a majority who support a ban on public employees serving in elected office. She thought the poll's findings were significant considering the flap involving several Nevada lawmakers who collected pay from their regular jobs with local governmental entities while also being paid by the state for their legislative duties.

Among those, Assembly members Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, and Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, were fired from their Clark County government jobs this month after administrators found they collected sick pay from those jobs while drawing state pay for serving in the Legislature.

Assemblyman Wendell Williams, D-Las Vegas, has agreed to repay his employer, the city of Las Vegas, for hours he said he worked during the legislative session.

In other poll results:

-Statewide, 64 percent of Nevadans think their safety hasn't changed in the past year, while 21 percent said they feel less safe, 12 percent feel safer and 3 percent don't know.

-The survey showed 58 percent of Nevadans would choose to delay or give up a federal tax cut to reduce the federal deficit. Some 35 percent of poll respondents preferred to keep the cash.

The average Nevadan has gained $2,325 from the tax cuts passed in 2001 and earlier this year, according to Dan Clifton, chief economist for Americans for Tax Reform, a low-tax lobbying group. The deficit hit a record $374.2 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.