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Millions poured into battle over margins tax

RENO — The proposed 2 percent tax on business revenues facing Nevada voters has become one of the most expensive ballot questions in state history.

Nearly $3.5 million had been raised as of early June by both sides in the battle over the margins tax, also known as Question 3.

That figure is expected to soar Tuesday when the latest contributions and expenses must be reported for what’s known as the Education Initiative.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if business donations at least double in (Tuesday’s report),” Eric Herzik, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“I don’t remember any ballot question drawing this much money. This is where the money is. Both sides are putting big money up, but business has the deeper pockets,” he added.

As of early June, business interests had raised $2.2 million to defeat the ballot question, while supporters had raised $1.2 million.

Proponents argue the initiative is desperately needed to ease crowding in Nevada schools while opponents maintain it’s a deeply flawed job-killer.

Among biggest contributors to the Coalition to Defeat the Margin Tax Initiative are its four original members: the Nevada Resort Association, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Retail Association of Nevada and Nevada Mining Association. In 2013, they each donated $175,000 to the cause.

For this year through early June, the anti-initiative coalition has taken in nearly seven times more money — $1.5 million from more than 80 donors.

The biggest contributors continued to be the Nevada Resort Association with $396,000, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce with $362,000 and Retail Association of Nevada with $117,000.

Others writing big checks were Farmers Group Inc. for $100,000, the Nevada Franchise Auto Dealers Association $87,330, the Nevada Bankers Association $75,000 and the Nevada Mining Association $50,000.

Leading the charge for passage of Question 3 is the Education Initiative Political Action Committee, which received $1 million from the Nevada State Education Association in 2013.

For 2014 through early June, the PAC has received $100,000 from the National Education Association and another $135,000 from NSEA.

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