Nevada Assembly passes highway funding bill |

Nevada Assembly passes highway funding bill

Associated Press

Cathleen Allison/The Nevada Appeal Nevada Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, left, listens during a joint transportation hearing Friday at the Legislature. The day after an agreement was announced, lawmakers continue to debate additional revenue sources for Nevada's highway funding crisis. Legislative fiscal analyst Russ Guindon, right, also testified.

The Nevada Assembly passed a bill Friday that will provide $1 billion for needed road projects – a partial solution to gridlock developing on the state’s main highways, especially in the Las Vegas area.

AB595, an agreement brokered by key lawmakers, Gov. Jim Gibbons and representatives from the gambling industry and local government, passed 40-2, with two Republicans voting against it. The measure moved to the Senate for final action.

Assembly Transportation Chairman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said if nothing is done, traffic will continue to worsen.

“We have heard all session how 100 cars are added to our roads daily. … Is this the perfect plan? Probably not, but it does keep our traffic flowing and it does provide our constituents some relief from congestion,” Atkinson said.

Assembly Minority Leader Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, opposed the bill, saying it would take away from money that would otherwise go to parks – a point Atkinson denied. He said the property taxes coming from local governments was never dedicated to parks.

“We are helping the major corporations of this state at the expense of our families that are already struggling to make it,” Mabey said, adding that families would be sacrificing baseball parks and swimming pools for roads, while the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and rental car companies aren’t sacrificing anything.

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Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, became choked up when she responded to Mabey, saying that she drives 45 minutes to and from work each day, time that she could be spending with her children.

“I’m really frustrated that here we stand today and we have something that helps us go forward, not fix the problem but we’re putting a dent in it. I’m not going back home and telling my constituents that a park is way more important than being home having dinner with them (her children),” Kirkpatrick said.

AB595 would divert rental car and property taxes, plus $20 million per year from room taxes going to the LVCVA. The money would finance $1 billion in bonds for upgrades to Interstate 15 and U.S. 95 in the Las Vegas area and Interstate 80 in the Reno area. Most of the money would be spent in southern Nevada.

Gibbons’ staffers were involved in negotiations on the plan with several lawmakers, including Assembly Transportation Chairman Kelvin Atkinson, Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, Sen. John Lee and Senate Transportation Chairman Dennis Nolan, all from the Las Vegas area.

The state is facing a projected $5 billion shortfall in funding for transportation projects, partly because of high inflation in the cost of construction materials.