Nevada’s stimulus funds discussed
Lawmakers were told Tuesday that most of Nevada’s estimated $201 million in federal stimulus funds for highway projects should be spent on pavement maintenance work.
Nevada Transportation Director Susan Martinovich also said that under the stimulus act Nevada will get $49 million for rapid-transit rail projects, and a Las Vegas-Los Angeles high-speed rail project could be eligible for some of that money.
Martinovich told Assembly and Senate committees that deal with transportation issues that her agency has more than $1 billion in road projects that meet the federal criteria that stimulus funds be spend on “shovel ready” highway construction.
Those projects include widening Interstate 15 from Primm to Las Vegas and U.S. 95 from Rainbow Boulevard to Ann Road in Southern Nevada; and a U.S. 395 widening job from Moana Lane to the “Spaghetti Bowl,” where the highway merges with Interstate 80, in Reno.
“This $200 million isn’t going to solve our needs,” said Assembly Transportation Chairman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas. “It is a drop in the bucket. But we are thankful for it.”
Told that Nevada will apply for stimulus funds that other states might not be able to use quickly, Atkinson added, “If some states don’t want their money, we’ll take it.”
The transportation funds should be available for Nevada within three weeks. Then the state has about four months to tell federal highway authorities its plans on spending at least half of the $201 million.
Martinovich also said she doesn’t know how many Nevadans will be put to work through the federal transportation funds. According to national studies, about 35,000 to 47,500 people will be put to work with each $1 billion in stimulus fund spending. That would mean 7,000 to 9,500 people would find work through the Nevada highway funds.
Panel would oversee funds
The Senate Finance Committee wants to create a special subcommittee to oversee the use of stimulus money in Nevada.
The 10 member panel, five from each house, would be structured as a subcommittee of Interim Finance and authorized to review how agencies in the state which receive those federal dollars use them. It authorizes the subcommittee to require redirection of the use of that money if it isn’t being used in an effective manner.
It would have authority to monitor use of funds within the university system, the Department of Transportation and Public Works Board, public schools, Medicaid and other social services and other agencies.
In addition, the panel will look at programs offered by the federal government to first determine if the state should participate in those programs.
SB143 was referred to the Finance Committee for study.