Tuesday, May 22, 2012

RIP Kermitt Waters Tax Initiative

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Farewell, Kermitt Waters tax initiative.

Part of a lawsuit filed by Waters to get a tax initiative on the ballot — this one exempting large casinos —was rejected by Clark County District Court Judge Jerry Wiese in Las Vegas.

Waters, a Las Vegas eminent domain attorney known as an advocate for citizen access to the ballot, said he hadn’t seen the ruling issued by Wiese on Tuesday but probably would appeal it to the Nevada Supreme Court. He’s also prosecuting a separate part of the lawsuit in federal court. [...]

Wiese also refused to extend a fast-approaching deadline for Waters to collect signatures for his initiative, likely leaving the Nevada Supreme Court as Waters’ only hope to get his measure on the 2012 ballot.

During a hearing Monday in Wiese’s courtroom before the judge issued his ruling, Waters wasn’t surprised when attorneys who showed up to fight him were representing the mining and retail industries as well as the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the Nevada Development Authority and the Nevada Taxpayers Association.

These same parties will all likely collide again in the federal part of the case and in Waters’ planned state Supreme Court appeal.

“The last thing Wall Street wants is for this to go to a vote of the people,” Waters said. “They run this state like a plantation.”

When I talked with Kermitt Waters back in February, even Waters himself seemed to suspect this would happen. Of course, he figured the powers that be would always orchestrated this. But at the end of the day, no one could deny that Nevada's single subject rule would pose problems for Waters' initiative that addressed everything from mining taxes to the state's public education budget to renewable energy investment to even new state appellate courts!

I always thought Waters had the best of intentions. He's just so disgusted by Carson City's culture of corruption that he doesn't trust them to do anything. I just wondered how most Nevada voters could wrap their heads around an initiative that reworks the entire budget upon one touch of one finger (on the touch screen voting machine).

At least progressives aren't completely without hope. With the Nevada AFL-CIO & NSEA again locking arms for their business tax initiative that's apparently been redesigned to withstand legal challenges, progressives probably have the best opportunity ever to begin changing the state's conversation on taxes and the state budget. Waters' bold and dramatic tax reform initiative may be dying a slow and ugly death, but at least overall hope for tax reform is still very much alive and well.

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