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Referendum effort to repeal commerce tax dead, organizer says

CARSON CITY — An effort to repeal the commerce tax through a referendum is dead, Nevada state Controller Ron Knecht said Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of many people — and I will be putting out public thanks to them individually as time allows — we were unable to make this happen in the short time remaining before the June 21 deadline,” he said in an email to backers of the petition drive. “So, in order to keep people from spending their valuable time that cannot achieve the public-interest goals we share and to keep them from experiencing the frustration that would be inevitable, I am hereby announcing that the effort to put the Commerce Tax referendum on the ballot is suspended.“

Knecht said that when the Supreme Court ruled that the 25,000 signatures the tax opponents had already gathered were invalid, “we sought by every means possible to arrange to restart the signature gathering effort and get the referendum to the November ballot.”

But Knecht said there was no way to get the signatures needed by the deadline.

The newly established commerce tax was approved by the 2015 Legislature as part of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $1.5 billion tax package sought primarily to increase funding to public education.

The tax has become a focal point of an internecine battle in the upcoming primary election on June 14 pitting GOP lawmakers who supported the tax against challengers who oppose it.

The commerce tax imposes a levy on businesses with $4 million or more in annual revenue. It is projected to generate $60 million annually for the state budget.

The Coalition for Nevada’s Future, a group of business interests that supported the tax, challenged the referendum on several grounds. Carson City District Judge James Wilson in December rejected the coalition’s arguments and allowed the effort to proceed, prompting the appeal to the high court. The Nevada Supreme Court invalidated the petition because of concerns about the description of the effects if people signed the referendum petition.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find @seanw801 on Twitter.

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