Assembly stalled on stadium construction bill | RecordCourier.com

Assembly stalled on stadium construction bill

by Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

The Nevada Assembly moved at a snail's pace toward a vote on the stadium bill that would finish the 30th special session early Friday morning.

NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon was called to the Assembly Chambers to discuss a report that surfaced earlier Thursday night about $899 million in freeway improvements in Las Vegas.

SB 1 would provide up to $750 million in room tax money to help build a domed 65,000 seat football stadium and another $420 million to expand and renovate the Clark County Convention Center. To pay off the stadium bonds, Clark County's room tax rate would increase by 0.88 percent in the resort corridor and a half percent for other properties within a 25 mile radius of the Clark County offices.

The problem was backers of the stadium funding bill were reportedly a handful votes shy of the 28 affirmative votes needed to reach the two-thirds majority. The super majority is required because Senate Bill 1 would impose increases in the Clark County room tax.

The Assembly spent hours Thursday hearing the same testimony from the same proponents and opponents the Senate heard from Tuesday evening before breaking for dinner shortly before 9 p.m.

The Senate passed the measure 16-5 on Tuesday evening.

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An army of lobbyists hired by the Raiders, Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, Clark County and unions who want the construction jobs put pressure on every doubtful lawmaker to vote for the bill. They argued the stadium is a game changer that would keep Las Vegas as the nation's top tourism destination for decades to come.

Funding for the $1.9 billion stadium project would also come from Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, $650 million, and $550 million from the Davis family — owners of the Raiders.

Another half percent increase in the room tax would support bonds to add 1.4 million square feet of space to the convention center. In addition that project will take a large amount of the money the convention and visitor's authority distributes to local governments, generating an estimated $132 million. The final piece of that puzzle is $848 million from existing revenues generated by the center for a total of $1.4 billion.

The measure uses General Obligation bonds instead of revenue bonds because experts say those bonds get a better interest rate because they're backed by Clark County. In case revenues from the stadium aren't enough to make the bond payments, the bill mandates the stadium authority build up a two-year reserve to make those payments. If that's not enough, Clark County would be on the hook for any shortfall.

The NDOT report said the state would need to accelerate at least $899 million in Las Vegas freeway improvements if a new stadium opens by 2019 at either of the two sites under consideration by the dome's developers, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal story. But the story also stated NDOT said the money was already needed, so there was no fiscal impact on its department. The late breaking Thursday night news still frustrated some lawmakers who took to social media to express their frustration.

Even if the stadium deal passes, three-fourths of NFL owners must approve any plan to move the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas. The City of Oakland says it's still working on its own stadium plan in hopes of convincing the team to stay in the Bay Area.

The other measure before lawmakers was AB1, which raises Clark County's sales tax a tenth of a percent. That bill easily cleared its final hurdle in the Senate by a 21-0 unanimous vote. The money will be used to hire more than 460 additional police officers in Clark County with nearly a quarter of those slated for the resort corridor. There were only seven in the Assembly who voted against the plan. AB1 is on its way to the governor for his signature.