Stadium tax passes Senate

Lobbyist walk past banners outside the Legislature Building supporting the building of a football stadium in Las Vegas.

Lobbyist walk past banners outside the Legislature Building supporting the building of a football stadium in Las Vegas.

The room tax hike to build a stadium in Las Vegas moved forward Tuesday when the Senate approved it 16-5 just minutes before they had committed to shut down at sundown out of respect for Yom Kippur.

But a vote on the sales tax to put more cops on the Strip was put off until Thursday because of technical problems with an amendment designed to repair technical errors.

SB1 would provide up to $750 million in public money to help build the Raiders a stadium and another $480 million to expand the Clark County convention center. The money would come from increasing the Clark County room tax rate 0.88 percent from Strip properties, a half percent outside the immediate Strip for the stadium and another half percent increase for the convention center.

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

The bill containing the stadium project will move to the Assembly Thursday.

At the same time, that body will take up the tenth of a percent sales tax increase to put more cops on the streets in Clark County.

But everything didn’t go smoothly when day two of the session began. Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, initially told opponents who turned out to object to the stadium project, they could have just 30 minutes time. Former assemblywoman Lucy Flores of Las Vegas objected when that time elapsed.

“We still have an entire room full of people opposed,” she said.

Roberson initially tried to shut her off, prompting Flores to argue Monday had hours of testimony from supporters and she was ashamed to be sitting there watching him try to close down opponents.

After a brief recess, he relented and said the opponents would be given an additional two hours to testify.

Among the leaders of the opposition was former Assemblywoman and current Clark County commissioner Chris Giunchigliani who said the original plan was to expand the convention center which has broad support but Sands Las Vegas owner Sheldon Adelson “hijacked the bill” and tied the stadium to it to make it an all or nothing vote. She also rejected the claim the stadium would be publicly owned saying the stadium authority would own it for 33 years.

“This is not a good deal,” she said arguing it shouldn’t be built with public money. Giunchigliani said with all elements put together, it would be the largest tax increase in Nevada history.

“I’m not against the stadium but let the people that have the money build it,” she said.

She was joined by a long list of opponents, many of them arguing the money would be much better spend enhancing public education than on a football stadium.

Lawyer Laura Fitzsimmons, an expert in land and development issues, said Adelson wants to “build it as a legacy.”

Fernando Romero of Hispanics in Politics told the Senate the only reason they were in session “is because three people with mucho dinero want the stadium,” a reference to Adelson, Steve Wynn and Jim Murren of MGM resorts.

In debate over the bill itself, they were joined by Republican Sens. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka and Don Gustavson of Sparks and Democrats Tick Segerblom and Ruben Kihuen both of Las Vegas.

Goicoachea objected saying he can’t support a bill that mandates a local government pay a tax and tells them how to spend the money.

Kihuen said he can’t support a nearly $1 billion handout to billionaire Adelson. He said the bill sets a bad public policy precedent.

Gustavson said the role of government, “should be to fund the necessary functions of government, not creating partnerships with private business.”

And newly appointed Sparks Democrat Julia Ratti said public stadiums have been proven a bad deal for their cities, “and this deal is the worst.” She also said the subject didn’t warrant a special legislative session.

Several union members who have been out of work also took the podium to argue for the stadium they said would create thousands of jobs in the various trades.

And those workers resonated with many of the bill’s supporters including Democrats Pat Spearman, Minority Leader Aaron Ford and Kelvin Atkinson all of Las Vegas and Republican Patricia Farley of Las Vegas.

“I couldn’t leave this chamber and look a laborer in the eye and say I had a chance to give you a job but I didn’t,” said Ford.

The Legislature will reconvene Thursday following Yom Kippur with the Assembly going in at 8:30 a.m. and the Senate at 2 p.m.


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