Sales, gaming tax hike proposals headed to Nevada Legislature after clearing signature thresholds |

Sales, gaming tax hike proposals headed to Nevada Legislature after clearing signature thresholds

Riley Snyder and Jackie Valley

The Nevada Independent

Angie Sullivan, a third grade teacher at Silver Elementary School during a Clark County Education Association rally in front of Durango High School in 2019.
Photo: Jeff Scheid / Nevada Independent

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first published Dec. 15 by The Nevada Independent and is republished here with permission. For more Nevada news, including wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage and a constantly updating live blog, visit The Nevada Independent.

Ballot initiatives to raise the state’s gaming and sales tax backed by the Clark County Education Association are headed to the 2021 Legislature, after county election officials found that both measures had received a sufficient number of signatures.

Local election officials in Clark and Washoe counties reported Tuesday that after a signature verification process, both measures had cleared the 97,598 voter signature threshold required for the proposed tax hikes to head to the Legislature in 2021. 

County officials verified 148,605 of the 201,935 submitted signatures for the gaming tax increase petition, or about 73.6 percent, and 137,791 of the 190,192 submitted signatures for the sales tax increase petition, about 72.4 percent.

The county-level signature verification process is one of the last stops before initiative petitions are deemed successful or unsuccessful. The secretary of state’s office will next certify the results and transfer them to the Legislature, assuming no legal challenges are filed.

The qualification of the two initiatives sets up a future battle for the state Legislature, which is constitutionally guided to take action on ballot initiatives qualified through the signature-gathering process within the first 40 days of the 120-day session.

If the measures — which raise taxes and thus require a two-thirds vote — aren’t approved by lawmakers, they will then be placed on the 2022 ballot for voters’ consideration.

The 2021 legislative session begins Feb. 1.

The sales tax initiative would raise the state’s Local School Support Tax from 2.6 percent to 4.1 percent and bring the state’s baseline sales tax rate to 8.35 percent. Individual counties have differing sales tax rates, meaning that change would result in a 9.875 percent sales tax in Clark County.

The other initiative would raise the state’s gaming tax rate from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent.

The ballot initiatives represent a push to dramatically improve K-12 funding at a time when the state budget has been decimated by the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Despite ongoing uncertainties created by COVID-19, the union’s executive director, John Vellardita, has said implementation of either measure would be more than a year away, allowing time for economic recovery.

In January, the teachers’ union estimated the tax increases could funnel an additional $1 billion per year for schools, though tourism has since cratered amid the ongoing pandemic. 

The initiatives have attracted robust opposition from business organizations, including the Nevada Resort Association, which opposes the proposed gaming tax hike and says it amounts to a “44 percent tax increase” on the industry, and the Las Vegas Chamber, which is against the proposed sales tax increase.

Both groups filed lawsuits earlier this year challenging the 200-word “Description of Effect” on signature-gathering forms, which succeeded in district court