Nevada commerce tax challenge to be filed next week

CARSON CITY — State anti-tax Republicans upset with legislative approval of a new commerce tax plan to file a referendum petition with the secretary of state’s office next week to take the new revenue plan to the voters in 2016.

Roger Haynes, chairman of the Carson City Republican Party, said opponents of the tax will also be filing a recall petition against state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who supported the revenue plan pushed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“I think we took significant strides to move Nevada forward during this session and I’m proud of what we did,” Kieckhefer said in response.

“We passed significant reforms to education, made great strides in economic development and won reforms that Republicans have been fighting for for decades. The tax package was a part of that, but only one part of a package of reforms and investment,” he said.

The push by Sandoval for the new tax on businesses making $4 million or more in revenue each year, and its support by many state GOP lawmakers, has angered the anti-tax wing of the state Republican Party.

Haynes said Carson Republicans supporting the referendum are working with a group called NV80. The group is led by Gardnerville Assemblyman Jim Wheeler and Theresa Catalani with Carson City Republican Women.

Monday is first day a referendum petition can be filed. But Carol Howell, another Republican involved in the referendum, said the filing might not come until Tuesday. Howell said she is providing training to those who want to circulate the referendum and recall petitions, and is coordinating with the NV80 group. But she said she is not a part of the group.

Sandoval has warned that a repeal of the commerce tax or other elements of the revenue plan approved as one package in Senate Bill 483 probably would mean budget cuts to public education and other important programs.

There are at least three groups looking at referendums aimed at Sandoval’s $1.1 billion tax bill approved by lawmakers in the 2015 session.

Conservative activist Chuck Muth is looking at the potential of a referendum, as is another group, Priorities Nevada, which includes state Controller Ron Knecht, Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers and former state Assemblyman Ed Goedhart.

Haynes said the NV80 group is focusing only on the commerce tax portion of the omnibus tax bill passed by the Legislature last month. The bill included many other taxes, including a $1 increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

Focusing only on the commerce tax will ensure the referendum cannot be challenged based on the requirement that a petition confine itself to a single subject, he said.

But there might be an effort to challenge the entire tax bill, potentially bringing forward a challenge based on the requirement that petitions focus on a single subject. Supporters of the initiative petition process, including Muth’s group Citizen Outreach, have a challenge to the single-subject requirement in front of the Nevada Supreme Court.

The case was argued before the court in March 2014 by another initiative proponent, Las Vegas attorney Kermitt Waters, but no ruling has yet been issued.

Because voter turnout was so low in the 2014 general election, it would not require a large number of signatures to put the tax plan or a portion of it on the ballot. Ten percent of those who voted last year would have to sign the petition, which is about 55,000 signatures. Signatures would have to be turned in for counting by June 2016.

Howell said the NV80 group has legal advice that says any registered voter can sign the referendum petition, which would need signatures from the state’s four congressional districts.

A recall is more difficult, requiring 25 percent of those who actually voted in the 2014 election in Kieckhefer’s Senate District 16 to sign the petition. Kieckhefer represents Washoe County and Carson City.

Contact Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801


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