Prop 13-type measure doesn’t make it to ballot |

Prop 13-type measure doesn’t make it to ballot

Patricia Hickson

We the People Nevada, a registered Political Action Committee in the state, has worked since April to gather signatures to qualify the “Nevada-style Proposition 13” measure for the November ballot.

Tuesday, the group announced they would fall short of collecting the required signatures to get the proposition – designed to protect property owners against rising taxes – onto the ballot.

“Signatures were due (Tuesday) and we knew that we did not have enough and so that was pretty much it,” said Incline tax reformer, Les Barta.

The “Nevada-style Prop 13” was sponsored by district representative Sharron Angle R- Reno, and is modeled after the Proposition 13 measure passed in California more than two decades ago.

If passed into law the proposition would limit property taxes to 1 percent of the base value of a property according to the 2003-’04 assessment.

If such a proposition passed, that base value would increase annually by no more than 2 percent (or the rate of inflation – whichever is less). To make it onto the November ballot 83,000 signatures, or 10 percent of voters who took to the polls during the last election, were required by June 20.

Tax reformer Barta said each signature gathered needs to be verified. Verification involves making sure the signer is a registered voter and lives in the state of Nevada.

Barta said verification numbers are around a 68 percent. Based on that estimate the group needed 135,000 signatures. Early this week, a total of 115,000 signatures had been collected, about 20,000 short of goal.

Signature gatherers do not blame lack of interest in the proposition for its failure to appear during the next general election. “I’m convinced that if this did get on the ballot people would (have) voted for it,” said Ted Harris who spent several days collecting signatures in Incline.

We the People Nevada chairman Cliff Nellis pointed to “petition obstructionists” as a significant factor in the inability to gather all signatures needed.

For the past several weeks, proponents of Proposition 13 and Tax and Spending Control for Nevada (TASC), another initiative aimed at limiting property taxes, have reported cases of harassment of both signers and petitioners.

“They would get around some of our petition gatherers – some of them would actually encircle our people and yell at them and bump into them,” knock the petition board our of our hands… tell people: ‘don’t sign that,'” Nellis said.

Nellis said in areas where “intimidators” were present the signature gathering rate dropped from an average of 10 to 15 signatures an hour to four an hour.

“The (protesters) didn’t understand the measure,” Barta said. “I have tremendous respect for opposing views that are well articulated and thought out – I don’t have much respect for people who react emotionally and irresponsibly.”

Nellis said that many of the protesters represented teaching unions, fire fighter unions and government employee unions.

Jan Gilbert, the Northern Nevada Coordinator of The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) said it makes sense that such unions don’t support the proposal.

“Proposition 13 in California has diminished the quality of life there,” Gilbert said. “I was there when it passed -and I think it is a real narrow short sided view to just say we must cut property taxes. The reality is we have to pay taxes as a society, we have to contribute.”

Gilbert said funding for schools, health care and emergency care would be dramatically diminished were a Proposition 13-like initiative voted into law.

“When they were gathering signatures they would tell people this will cut your taxes but that is such a simplification of it,” Gilbert said. “I think the reality is Nevada’s property tax is not exorbitant – our property taxes go to our local governments and our local schools – you can’t cut property tax without seeing an impact on the local services you want.”

But proponents of property tax reform disagree.

Signature gatherers in Incline said they had friends and neighbors that were forced to sell their homes at the lake and move away because they could not afford the property taxes.

They also said Proposition 13 would not have “starved” the government of funds.

“People were cutting their own throats to prevent something from happening that would have been helpful to the states and to the taxpayers,” Barta said. “We knew we couldn’t come up with a measure that would have stifled the government’s need for revenue. We wanted to balance the need for tax payer protection with the need for generating reasonable government revenue.”

The TASC initiative did gather enough signatures to make it onto the ballot. Incline tax revolter Ted Harris said TASC is a more draconian measure than the Prop. 13-like initiative.

“I believe that that if the TASC gets passed it’s going to hang a big hammer over the legislature to find some other method of limiting tax spending,” he said.

Gilbert said PLAN is “very concerned about TASC.”

“I think it is deceptive in its decreased property taxes for people, while in reality it is going to cut services and it is going to cut services for everybody,” she said.

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