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On July, 21, after weeks of debate, the Nevada state legislature passed a budget that included a record $836 million in new taxes to fund public schools. The budget battle is becoming a circus act, featuring a lawsuit from Governor Kenny Guinn against the state legislature, a Supreme Court decision to suspend the voter-approved two-thirds supermajority requirement to raise taxes, and multiple attempts by state politicians to raise taxes by close to a billion dollars.
Even though a budget was finally passed, many issues remain. With their disregard for the state constitution, Governor Guinn and the Nevada Supreme Court are creating a dangerous precedent for state governance. Other states with similar budget problems and the same robust supermajority requirement to raise taxes have launched efforts to involve the Supreme Court in legislative stalemates. For example, the state education chief in California has, with the support of Governor Gray Davis, asked the Supreme Court to intervene to allow a simple majority to pass proposed tax increases. We haven’t seen this kind of reckless disregard for legal and legislative taxpayer protections in years.
Las Vegas Review columnist Vin Suprynowicz recently wrote that the crucial Nevada Supreme Court decision was decided long before the lawsuit was actually filed. Citing a retired Nevada Judge, Suprynowicz writes that Gov. Guinn spoke with Justices Bob Rose and Miriam Shearing at the beginning of the budget battle and received assurances from them that the Court would impose his proposed tax hikes. They even predicted that it would be a 6-1 vote – the exact outcome of the Supreme Court decision.
That raises some serious questions. Why did the Supreme Court reportedly decide the case before it was even presented to them? What communications occurred between the Governor and the justices prior to the lawsuit? Why did the state Supreme Court decide to throw out the votes of Nevada Citizens who had twice approved the constitutional amendment to require a supermajority for tax increases? Did the judicial branch overstep the bounds of separation of powers by getting involved in a legislative dispute?
These are very important questions, and as the pressures in California demonstrate, their answers could have national implications. That’s why Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) is actively looking for those answers with a petition calling for the Nevada state legislature to investigate the actions of the Supreme Court. The full text is:
“Have the Justices of the Nevada Supreme Court breached the Constitution?
Whereas in 1996, over 70% of Nevada citizens voted to adopt a constitutional amendment that requires either a 2/3 "supermajority" vote of the State Legislature or a majority vote of the electorate in order to increase state taxes; and
Whereas the Justices of the Supreme Court of Nevada have ruled to disregard this constitutional amendment; and
Whereas the Justices of the Supreme Court of Nevada may have violated the state’s constitution to promote a specific political agenda;
Now, therefore, we the undersigned citizens of the State of Nevada, having attached our signatures and places of residence, do hereby petition the Nevada Assembly to hold hearings to examine the foregoing allegations.”
The petition has been circulating for two weeks and has received support from citizens throughout the state, including many assembly lawmakers, concerned about the constitutionality and consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision. If you’re interested in finding out the reasons for the Supreme Court’s actions, you can sign the petition online at www.cse.org/nevada/petition.php.