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Despite Last Minute Report On Stadium-Related Road Costs, Assembly Approves Tax Hike

Joe Schoenmann

Lawmakers (left to right) Heidi Swank (D) - Dist. 16; Olivia Diaz (D) - Dist. 11 with two unidentified lawmakers talk in the Assembly chamber Friday morning.

Update: 12:30 p.m. Friday: 

The State Assembly voted 28-13 to approve a bill raising hotel room taxes to help pay for a domed stadium. The bill still needs to go before the Senate to approve minor changes. 

The approval came despite an article about the price tag for road improvements.  

The surprise report published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal kept lawmakers - many of them angry - in the Nevada State Assembly chambers all night Thursday and into the early morning hours of Friday.

It was a session that KTNV Channel 13's Riley Snyder called "NVLeg After Dark." 

The lawmakers were debating a hike in hotel room taxes to raise the $750 million in public money for the proposed domed stadium in Las Vegas. The Review Journal story indicated that Nevada would need nearly $900 million in road improvements for the stadium.

After that report dropped, the Nevada Department of Transportation director, Rudy Malfabon, was called out of bed and came to the Assembly chambers around midnight. He explained that the projects were already planned, although the stadium could prompt officials to accelerate their construction timeline.

Malfabon also admitted under withering questioning by angry lawmakers that the planned projects weren't supposed to happen for another 10 or 15 years. In order to accelerate the projects for the stadium, other road projects around the state would have to be postponed.

Assembly members were not happy about having to go back to people in their districts and tell them their roads won't be fixed for another decade.

The leaked report also angered Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, herself a former legislator, who tweeted last night:

"Myself and @mayoroflasvegas (Mayor Carolyn Goodman) asked questions of NDOT about SB1 transportation TODAY at the RTC and they said they had no info. They lied to our faces."

Assemblywoman Heidi Swank asked Malfabon about Giunchigliani's tweet. His answer was that he hadn't even brought the report up to the NDOT board, so he didn't feel like he could talk about it to the mayor of Las Vegas and a county commissioner.

The report was dated Oct. 4, 2016.

Money for the roads project would come from a continuation of the fuel indexing tax, which voters in each county of the state will weigh in on in the upcoming election.

If the indexing tax fails in Clark County, Malfabon said he doesn't know where the money will come from to build and improve roads around the stadium.

Giunchigliani is a proponent of the fuel indexing tax. She has said at public meetings that roads around Clark County are in dire need of repair, and her constituents can't wait.

Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak is skeptical of continued fuel indexing taxes. He told KNPR's State of Nevada in July that he was worried about voters getting accurate information before they voted on the continuation.

Yet, Sisolak is a proponent of the stadium. He could not be reached for comment before Friday's show.

Supporters of a plan to build a $1.9 billion dollar stadium on the Las Vegas Strip need 28 votes to pass the plan. If it passes, some $750 million in room taxes, guaranteed by taxpayers, would go into the stadium.

And another $400 million in room taxes would pay for upgrades to the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Opponents of the stadium deal don’t want public money spent on a private venture.



Note: The original Review Journal story was taken down and edited on Thursday night. The story linked above is the cached version of the original.

John L. Smith, commentator

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)