Anti-Tax, Elective Office Limit Proposals Fail

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Petitions to repeal a record $833 million Nevada tax increase and bar government workers from serving in the Legislature have failed to qualify for the November ballot, Secretary of State Dean Heller said Tuesday.

Heller said an analysis by local election officials of signatures turned in by the proponents showed both fell short of the required minimum of 51,337 signatures.

The "Ax the Tax" proposal had a total of 49,207 and the elective office proposal had 47,328 signatures.

The elective office plan, which is an initiative petition, also fell two counties short of a requirement to get signatures equal to 10 percent of the voter turnout in 13 of the state's 17 counties.

The proposal, which would have required approval this November and again in November 2006 to amend the Nevada Constitution, failed in the counties of Douglas, Humboldt, Lyon, Nye, Washoe and Carson City.

The tax plan, a referendum petition, didn't face the 13-of-17 counties requirement. It would have wiped out the tax package approved by state lawmakers in 2003 if it had won voter approval this November.

"We're probably going to court," said George Harris of Nevadans for Sound Government, the group that pushed both proposals. "Without sounding like a whiner, we have fought this since the get-go. None of these bureaucrats want the people's voice to be heard."

"We've said this time and time again. We're not going to let them tamper with our signatures," added Harris.

Heller defended the efforts of local election officials around the state to verify the signatures, saying, "It's an objective process. It's not subjective."

"We checked, double-checked and triple-checked all these numbers."

A judge gave 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.

If the tax plan had made it onto the November ballot and won approval, Gov. Kenny Guinn - who backed higher taxes in 2003 - would have been forced to make budget cuts and possibly call the Legislature into special session to deal with budget issues resulting from the tax repeal.

"From the beginning, this was the wrong way to determine the state's fiscal policies," Guinn spokesman Greg Bortolin said. "The consequences of this initiative - pass or fail - would have been disastrous. The ability to repeal or amend any of these provisions remains in the hands of the public's elected representatives, where it has always belonged."

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

Even if the proposals had met the minimum signature requirement, the tax proposal would have faced another challenge from the Nevada Taxpayers Association, which had vowed to file a lawsuit aimed at keeping it off the November ballot.

A poll done recently 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.