Members of the Legislative Commission ordered an audit of how the Nevada Department of Transportation sets priorities, develops and manages projects.
The audit was sought by Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, as well as several Las Vegas senators including Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, during the 2001 Legislature. Lawmakers at both ends of the state have questioned why some projects seem to have a high priority even though most people in their districts would put more importance on projects farther down the list.
Amodei told fellow commission members that the Nevada Department of Transportation controls a budget totaling a half-billion dollars a year and yet sets priorities for that spending outside of legislative review.
Amodei as well as Carson City officials have questioned NDOT's decisions which they interpreted as giving more priority to building I-580 between the Mount Rose Junction and Washoe Valley than to finishing the Carson Bypass project. Carson officials have said they often feel that the department makes a deal with them, then changes it without notice.
Amodei has said that no one seems to know exactly how NDOT arrives at some of those decisions.
Southern lawmakers have had similar issues, many aggravated by the dramatic growth in the Las Vegas Valley which has produced effective gridlock on many major arteries. Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, referred to "sitting in a parking lot on I-15."
"There is a lack of confidence in the long term planning by the department," Buckley said.
Titus said she supports the audit but added sarcastically that, "I wish you had been as supportive when the governor sent the veto over."
Amodei and other Republicans refused to support overriding Guinn's veto. He said taking the issue to the Legislative Commission was an appropriate way to get the audit done without a veto battle.
The primary difference between using legislation to mandate the audit and an order from the Legislative Commission is that, instead of NDOT paying for its own audit from highway funds, the money will come from the legislative fund.
Legislative Auditor Gary Crews said he believes his budget can absorb the estimated $10,000 the audit will cost