Two More Initiatives May Be On November Ballot

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Petitioners trying to repeal a record $833 million Nevada tax increase and bar government workers from serving in the Legislature passed an initial test in efforts to get on the November ballot, Secretary of State Dean Heller said Tuesday.

Heller said the petitions had enough "raw count" signatures to warrant signature verifications by local election officials. That review must be done by Aug. 9.

Both the "Ax the Tax" proposal and the restriction on elective office needed a minimum of 51,337 signatures. The tax plan had a raw count total of 64,600 and the elective office proposal had 62,292 signatures.

The elective office plan, which is an initiative petition, also had to get signatures equal to 10 percent of the voter turnout in 13 of the state's 17 counties. It would require approval this November and again in November 2006 to amend the Nevada Constitution.

The tax plan, a referendum petition, didn't face that requirement. It would wipe out the tax package approved by state lawmakers in 2003 if it can win voter approval this November.

A judge gave the petition proponents, Nevadans for Sound Government, more than a month of extra time to collect signatures after some of the group's signature-gatherers testified they had been harassed and arrested outside government buildings.

George Harris of Nevadans for Sound Government credited publicity generated by the arrests and the subsequent court action for helping the group's efforts. At the time of the court hearings, Harris said the tax petition had 44,000 signatures and the government employees petition had 36,000.

If voters repeal the tax increase, Gov. Kenny Guinn - who backed the higher levies - would be forced to make budget cuts and could call the Legislature into special session to deal with budget issues.

The state employees initiative could affect as many as 16 of the state's 63 legislators who held full-time government or teaching jobs when the drive started.

A poll done last week for the Las Vegas Review-Journal found enough support among Nevada voters to repeal the tax increase, but found decreasing support for the ban on public employees in the Legislature.

The survey found 47 percent of 625 likely voters for tax repeal and 35 percent against, with 18 percent undecided. Washington, D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the poll, found 39 percent in favor and 41 percent opposed when it asked the same question last March.

The latest survey found 36 percent favor and 46 percent oppose banning public employees from serving in Carson City - a shift from 41 percent for and 43 percent against the initiative in March.

The telephone poll had a sampling error margin of 4 percentage points.