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'Betting on the Margins' to Fund NV Schools

June 7, 2012

CARSON CITY, Nevada - Nevada voters soon could be asked to sign petitions for a new business tax to help fund kindergarten-through-12th-grade education.

The "Education Initiative" would create what's known as a margins tax for businesses with total annual revenue of more than $1 million. The tax rate would be 2 percent of their revenue, with a couple of ways to calculate it and a complex set of definitions and exemptions.

The Nevada State Education Association is among the initiative's backers. Its president, Lynn Warne, says it would include more businesses, so it's bound to raise more money.

"Really, it isn't industry-specific, and that's what Nevada's needed to get away from. We've been too narrowly focused on specific industries, such as gaming, to fund essential services - and it's just been inadequate, and our schools are falling farther and farther behind."

If the next Legislature approved the margins tax, money could be collected starting in 2015. If not, the issue could be decided at the ballot box. Either way, Warne calls this tax proposal more even-handed than Nevada's current Modified Business Tax, which companies pay based on their number of employees.

"The intention of our organization is to see the Modified Business Tax eventually repealed and replaced by this margins tax, which is a much fairer and broad-based tax."

Nevada's margin tax proposal is closely based on a similar tax in Texas, in effect since 2006. There, it has been criticized for its complexity and for not raising as much revenue as its backers predicted.

Its backers estimate the Nevada tax would raise about $800 million a year. A company with no exemptions or credits would pay about $40,000 in margins tax for every $1 million of income. Warne says the group expects some legal challenges before it can start collecting signatures on petitions.

The petition is online at nvsos.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NV