TASC gets near double the needed signatures for ballot

Supporters of the Tax and Spending Control initiative surprised even themselves Tuesday, filing a total of 150,990 signatures to put the proposed amendment before Nevada voters in November.

But a spokesman for public employee unions who oppose TASC, dropped a bombshell which, if true, could kill the petition anyway. Danny Thompson, of the AFL-CIO, said TASC organizers, who amended their petition twice after filing the initial version, circulated the wrong version on the street. And the difference, he said, is far from insignificant: The two versions have a different base year to begin calculating the tax-and- spending limits.

Ellick Hsu, elections deputy for Secretary of State Dean Heller, said his office was advised of the allegations Tuesday and will have to investigate. But he conceded an incorrect base year would be a significant problem.

The base year set in the petition is the point in time from which future caps on taxes and governmental spending are calculated. Thompson said Guy Hobbs, one of the state's top governmental finance experts, has calculated the impact of the change at about $1.3 billion.

Ironically, according to Thompson, the petition setting the base biennium to 2007-09 would allow governments to spend more than the correct version, which sets the base at 2005-07.

"Worst-case scenario, if there's a substantive difference, I think we would deem that a different petition," Hsu said.

TASC lawyer Joel Hanson said he hasn't yet had the opportunity to determine whether there is a difference between the petition circulated and the final version on file with the secretary of state.

"My clients are quite confident the petition is proper," he said. "I'm sure we're going to very vigorously defend the legal sufficiency of the petition."

The total number of signatures presented to Nevada's 17 county clerks Tuesday is nearly double the 83,184 needed to qualify and far more than either TASC's author Sen. Bob Beers or committee chairwoman Ann O'Connell thought they had.

As recently as Monday, both were hoping for victory, saying it would be very close.

"We've got our fingers crossed, our eyes crossed and I think we're going to make it," O'Connell said Monday.

Beers said he was simply not aware that many more signatures had been raised in the past few weeks. He said publicity over the court ruling just three weeks ago ordering opponents not to interfere with signature gatherers brought in dozens of volunteers to gather signatures.

"There was a tremendous escalation in volunteers to gather signatures when the court ruled," he said as he filed a box containing 2,560 signed petitions with Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover on Tuesday morning.

If the petition survives to get before voters, Beers predicts it will pass 68 percent to 32 percent.

"All our polls show support is overwhelming," he said.

The spending amendment would constitutionally prohibit government from growing faster than the population plus inflation. The only way any government from a small city to the state could exceed that cap would be by a vote of the people. A large share of any excess revenue above that cap would have to be returned to the people.

Thompson said he doubts the question will reach the ballot.

There are also allegations supporters circulating the proposed Property Owners Bill of Rights had voters unknowingly sign TASC at the same time, Thompson said.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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