The Nevada State Education Association last month agreed to drop its petition initiative to increase casino taxes in exchange for support from some casino operators on a plan to increase the taxes on hotel rooms.
The union had been furiously collecting signatures to put the issue before voters in 2008 and again in 2010, but following discussions with Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Station Casinos, it decided not to file the signatures.
What makes the move strange from both parties is that it seems somewhat premature. The union, if it had the requisite number of signatures, could pull the initiative at a later date if it was so inclined. And the casino industry could have easily waited to see if the union did, in fact, have the number of signatures necessary to move the initiative forward, and could have waited for a July ruling from the Nevada Supreme Court on the union?s proposal before dealing.
As it stands, the NSEA now has three major casino operators supporting plans to raise the hotel room tax rate by 3 percentage points to a maximum of 13 percent. The tax raise would appear on the ballot as an advisory question before seeking legislative approval in 2009.
By keeping the NSEA from filing the signatures, the gaming industry certainly recorded an initial win, but it is difficult to see exactly where this will lead.
But the three major companies were opposed by two others, MGM Mirage and Las Vegas Sands, who are asking the Clark County Commission to keep the measure off the ballot. MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman called the entire process ?flawed? and urged a more broad-based solution to the financial crisis.
MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni suggested a modest increase in the payroll tax would accomplish the same goals and spread the responsibility across a larger constituency.