Special session for Raider stadium a bit more complex than just that

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The looming special legislative session will almost certainly be a lot more complex than a single vote on building the Raiders a new home.

Gov. Brian Sandoval will face a major push to add other southern Nevada issues to the agenda.

The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee this week approved a plan that would raise the Clark County room tax to cover bond payments totaling $750 million as the public share of the $1.9 billion football dome. That would be accompanied by a $650 million check from private donors, basically from Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Addleson, and $500 million from the Raiders owners, the Davis family.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson says he’s aiming for a special session in October to approve the plan.

The proposed room tax hike is a bit complicated. According to the infrastructure committee’s draft legislation, customers at large resorts on the Strip would be hit hardest with 0.88 percent tacked onto the existing room tax. Hotels and resorts within a 25 mile circle around the Clark County Commission building would pay a bit less — a half-percent— while those operations with rooms beyond that circle such as Mesquite would pay no more.

But there’s pressure for Sandoval to include the Clark commission’s plan to expand and spruce up its convention center in the special session. That would add a county-wide half-percent increase in the room tax.

Then there’s the tenth of a percent increase in the sales tax for Clark County to fund more law enforcement across the Vegas valley. A number of folks would like that added to the special session as well.

Above and beyond that, Sen. Tick Segerbloom has a bill draft request that would raise the room tax 2 percent to fund school construction and repair in Clark County. It’s highly unlikely Gov. Brian Sandoval would include that proposal in the Special Session agenda but Segerbloom will undoubtedly make it abundantly clear if there is a special he thinks schools are more important than the football stadium. Asked this week if that was an intentional monkey wrench in the stadium plan, he said simply, “no comment.”

According to 2015 figures from the Legislative Counsel Bureau, a 1 percent increase in the Clark County room tax is worth just more than $50 million a year.

So, if all those proposals are approved and added, the Clark County room tax rate would rise by 3.38 percent in the Strip’s corridor to a total of 15.38 percent.

That pretty much matches the room Tax in San Francisco which charges visitors 15.5 percent.

In the 25 mile circle surrounding the county complex, the rate would rise 3 to 15 percent and in the outlying areas, by 2.5 percent to 12.5 percent.

Then there’s the political side of the proposal. The idea of raising any tax, even one paid primarily by visitors, is likely to be unpopular in some quarters. So who shoulders the political baggage that will certainly come from approving such a plan and doing so just a couple of weeks before the November 8 election?

The way the proposed legislation is written, the Legislature gets that burden. It “requires the county in which the stadium district is located to issue general obligations of the county to defray the cost to acquire, construct, leave, improve, equip, operate or maintain an NFL stadium project.”

In other words, it mandates raising the room tax and issuing the bonds.

That, however, would require a two-thirds majority by the Assembly and Senate, which could be difficult to come by given the proximity of the November 8 elections. That issue is almost certainly on the minds of a few southern Nevada lawmakers with tough re-election races.

Lawmakers could, instead, decide to pass legislation authorizing Clark County to raise the room tax and sell the bonds instead of mandating it. Backers of that idea argue it’s a policy decision affecting that local government that should be made by that local government and not by the state legislature.

That would require only a simple majority vote by lawmakers and would put the burden on the Clark County commission. And the Clark County commission isn’t exactly unanimously for the proposal. Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani says she supports the stadium but has vocally opposed public funding for the project.

In addition, there may be some objections raised over the section that says the developers of the project don’t have to share any of the profits generated by the stadium. Unlike some other stadium deals across the country, they get to keep all the money.

Backers including Roberson, however, point out the public would own a 65,000 seat domed football stadium that could be used for a long list of other events including major concerts and would be the new home to the UNLV football team.

Sandoval said this week he’s reviewing the proposal from the infrastructure committee and will make a decision in the near future.


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