Nevada: Prop 13-Style Cap Kept Off Ballot Due to Election Law Violations

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Backers of Anti-Tax Measure Admit It Will Result in Major Cuts in Education

Anti-tax advocates in Nevada once again appear to have failed in their efforts to get a Proposition 13-style property tax cap onto the ballot. This is the third time in four years that the former Assemblywoman pushing the initiative has come up short -- and her group has now started to grasp at some fairly interesting straws in an effort to reverse that trend.

After failing to collect the required number of signatures needed in 2004 and 2006, this time a District Court judge ruled that the signature collectors had failed to comply with election law procedures for some 8,000 of the signatures they collected. After removing these signatures, the initiative is again well short of the number needed.

The backers of the plan have appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, though that effort is unlikely to change much since the ballots are already being printed (minus the property tax cap), and insufficient time remains to re-print them. Though the group backing the plan originally planned to appeal the ruling on the grounds that the relevant Nevada election laws are not sufficiently clear, with things appearing so desperate the group is now claiming that the District Judge who invalidated the signatures has a conflict of interest in the case. The conflict? His wife works as a "Reading Program Coordinator" with a Nevada public school system, and, like many in the education field, could lose a portion of her income, or even her job, if this irresponsible proposal is enacted.

In the words of the proposal's supporters: "Since Judge McGee's wife obviously has an... economic interest in the subject matter in controversy (her income), and the Judge knows it, Judge McGee was required to reveal possible or potential conflict of interest".

So who is this judge's wife? She's worked in the Washoe County School District for 27 years. During the first 14 years she taught grades K-2, and for the last 13 she's been a reading coordinator. Unfortunately for the anti-taxers, she's actually been officially retired for 5 years, though she continues to work with the district on a very limited basis. Though they were wrong on the facts, the anti-tax group's implicit admission here that their plan could force valued school employees to be let go is quite revealing.

Of course, such a scenario is not at all far-fetched. Prop 13 in California has had a significant role in the recent budget troubles plaguing that state. If a similar property tax cap were enacted in Nevada without offsetting increases in other taxes, similar budgetary troubles (accompanied by spending cuts in areas such as education) should be expected there as well.

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