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Referendum to repeal new commerce tax gets go-ahead, but time running out

CARSON CITY — A state judge Friday signed off on new language for a proposed referendum seeking to repeal Nevada’s new commerce tax.

Carson City District Judge James Wilson issued an order after a brief telephone conference call with lawyers.

A group called RIP Commerce Tax, led by Republican state Controller Ron Knecht, now faces the difficult challenge of collecting 55,000 signatures — about 17,000 from each of Nevada’s four congressional district — over the next four weeks. Signatures must be turned in by June 21.

But first organizers must refile the referendum with the secretary of state’s office. Knecht late Friday conceded the effort will be difficult.

On May 11, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the original measure’s description of effect — a required 200-word explanation of what the petition does — was flawed because it didn’t tell voters what effect it would have on the state budget.

Justices invalidated about 20,000 signatures already collected and told supporters they’d have to start over.

The commerce tax was part of a $1.5 billion revenue package pushed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and approved by the 2015 Legislature to fund the state budget and the governor’s education agenda. It imposes a levy on businesses with $4 million or more in annual revenue and is projected to generate $60 million a year.

The referendum would give voters the final say on whether it stays on the books or is repealed.

The Coalition for Nevada’s Future, a group of business interests that supported tax, challenged the petition in court, claiming among other things that the way it was written was misleading and deceptive.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Find @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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