An initiative launched by the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) to increase the taxes paid by Las Vegas casino operators has merit, but the timing couldn’t be worse. The CCEA, the largest teachers’ union in Las Vegas, circulated a pair of petitions as it looked to gain support for a push for increased taxes, and was able to exceed its goal by more than 100% for each. If the proposals find legislative support, the additional money would go to fund educational programs from the kindergarten to the high school levels.
One petition wants to increase Nevada’s sales and use tax to 4.1% from its current 2.5%. The money collected from the increase would go toward programs defined in the guidance of the Local School Support Tax. The second petition wants to increase the gross gaming revenue (GGR) tax to 9.75% from 6.75%, and would only target those casinos who earn at least $250,000 in a particular month. That additional money would be used for different education programs.
Asking casino operators to pay 4.5% more in taxes while reeling from a massive meltdown caused by a global pandemic will certainly meet a lot of resistance. Las Vegas casinos are still scrambling to find solid ground because of COVID-19, and some analysts have predicted that a full recovery could be three or four years away. As the coronavirus continues to reappear, it could take even longer for casinos to get back to normal, and it’s likely that some will have to call it quits before the dust settles.
Nevada’s gaming industry is already scoffing at the idea. The state took in GGR of $2.3 billion in the most recent quarter, 23.5% less than it saw a year earlier. The Nevada Resort Association issued a response to the tax initiative this week, asserting, “As Nevada’s largest industry and economic engine continues to do all it can to recover and bring employees back to work, now is not the time to target the resort industry with a 44 percent tax increase that would further damage Nevada’s recovery efforts, create permanent job losses, and further jeopardize capital investment and future economic development.”
The signatures collected for the petitions still have to be verified before the measures can be presented to lawmakers. However, almost 200,000 local residents got behind the efforts, beating the 97,598 requirement by a long shot. If the petitions make it to legislators and these fail to take action, or reject the measures, voters will get a chance to weigh in on the increased taxes when they take to the polls in 2020.
The last time Nevada saw any major changes to how it addresses education funding was in 1967. That was when The Nevada Plan was introduced, and a lot has changed since then. This makes the CCEA proposal worthwhile, but not its timing.