The Clark County Education Association (CCEA) is suing Nevada’s Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, to have its own motion to raise casino taxes struck from the 2022 ballot.
Last year, the Las Vegas-based teacher’s union spearheaded a campaign to hike casino revenue tax from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent. The initiative, which generated the necessary 97,598 valid signatures to get on the ballot, also proposed raising sales tax to almost 9.9 percent to increase investment in the K-12 program.
But CCEA executive director John Vellardita said the campaign was merely about “starting a conversation” in the legislature about underfunding in education.
During the last session, Nevada lawmakers passed a bill to increase funding for public schools through a new excise tax on mining. With its goal accomplished, the CCEA said it would happily withdraw the two tax measures from the ballot.
The only problem is the secretary of state says it can’t. Despite soliciting and then receiving a legal opinion from Nevada’s Democratic attorney general, Aaron Ford, that it was possible to remove the motions, Cegavske’s office argues the state constitution says they must stay on the ballot.
“After the review, the Office has concluded that the Opinion fails to address the Constitutional imperative and compels the Secretary to act in a certain manner,” Cegavske wrote in a letter to Ford in October.
Our Office maintains a different position than the Opinion with respect to the nature of the affirmative obligations imposed on the Secretary of State by the Nevada Constitution specifically with respect to initiative petitions that have been filed, verified, and submitted to the Legislature,” she added.
The CCEA lawsuit, filed last week in Carson City, argues Cegavske has “no discretion under law” to bar the union from withdrawing the motions. The petitioners are therefore entitled to a court order directing her to do so, it claims.
Nevada consistently ranks poorly for education among US states. In 2021, it was 45th, according to the World Population Review. Meanwhile, its casino taxes are the lowest in America outside of Indian country. The legislature has always protected the gaming sector, the state’s economic engine.
Ironically, during her career as a lawmaker in the state assembly and senate, Cegavske steadfastly opposed raising taxes of all descriptions.
It is unclear who will represent the secretary of state if she contests the lawsuit. That role would normally fall to Attorney General Ford, who is on record disagreeing with her interpretation of the constitution.
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