Knecht: Getting commerce tax petition on ballot tough in wake of court rejection

Controller Ron Knecht, who’s spearheading the drive to repeal the commerce tax, said Friday it’s going to be tough to redo the petition and get it on the ballot because of the limited amount of time remaining before signatures must be submitted.

The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled the existing referendum petition doesn’t adequately tell voters the impact of the measure — specifically it would unbalance the state budget by eliminating more than $121 million the controversial tax would funnel into K-12 education.

Asked if they can do it, Knecht said, “We’re not sure.”

Knecht said the group backing the petition had gathered about 20,000 signatures as of last week but wouldn’t have to start all over again. The group must collect 55,234 valid signatures of registered Nevada voters, including at least 13,809 in each of Nevada’s four congressional districts, to qualify the petition for the November ballot.

The problem, said Knecht, the group only has until June 21 to do so.

“The court’s decision has set us back,” he said.

Knecht’s said his legal team was contacting District Judge James Wilson on Friday asking what he wanted it to do.

He said the group RIP Commerce Tax can have a new Description of Effect to Wilson correcting the high court’s objections almost immediately but that the group first needs to know how Wilson wants to proceed.

“If we can get a new (Description of Effect) and new petitions printed and get them on the streets next week, we would have a chance of getting the 70,000 plus signatures we think we need,” Knecht said.

The extra signatures are necessary in any petition drive because about 20 percent of the names collected are normally disqualified for not being registered Nevada voters.

In the court opinion, Justice Nancy Saitta wrote by ignoring the impact of the petition on the budget, the measure is “materially misleading.”

“The petition’s signers have been both deceived and misled,” she wrote.

Knecht said the amount the tax was expected to generate was less than a half percent of the state budget and well within the margin of error for the revenue projections used to build the state budget.

“This is what the Supreme Court does not understand: There will be no significant effect on the balanced budget mandate,” he said.


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