SAN FRANCISCO - The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authoritythis year plans to issue the first installment of $300 million of bonds for local transportation projects.

The bonds will be repaid with revenue from hotel room taxes collected by the authority, though they will also be limited tax general obligations of Clark County.

It's part of a program that emerged as a compromise in the late days of the 2007 Legislature, after Gov. Jim Gibbons proposed a much larger plan to shift the authority's room tax revenue toward transportation projects.

In the bill that emerged, the convention authority promised to delegate $20 million of its revenue annually toward transportation financing.

"It's infrastructure in projects that will benefit the tourism corridor," said authority spokesman Jeremy Handel.

Gibbons' original plan took so much revenue from the authority that it threatened to undermine the authority's existing bonds, bond counselJohn O. Swendseid wrote at the time.

Those concerns were addressed by the final bill, Swendseid said after the bill was adopted last June.

The authority's board approved the $300 million transportation bond program April 8.

The authority plans to sell the first installment of about $40 million to $50 million in a competitive sale this summer, said John Bonow, managing director of Public Financial Management, the authority's co-financial manager with Hobbs, Ong, & Associates Inc.

The authority's most recent issuance of limited tax GOs secured with pledged revenues, in 2007, drew underlying ratings of AA-plus from Standard & Poor's and Aa1 from Moody's Investors Service.

The LVCVA's room tax revenues are now under attack from another source.

Currently, petition signatures are being gathered for two proposed ballot measures that would divert room taxes from the LVCVA.

A district court judge last week allowed signature gathering to continue for the initiatives, both of which would divert LVCVA tax collections that exceed those of fiscal year 2007 into state government programs, with inflation adjustments. The authority received $213 million in room taxes during fiscal 2007.

The Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates a competing convention center, is backing the initiatives, according to published reports.

"After the recent district court decision allowing them to continue gathering signatures, we're basically reviewing our options," Handel said. "Because it's a speculative thing, we don't want to comment on that."

The LVCVA is in the midst of a program to expand its convention center, and plans to issue about $300 million of long-term bonds for the project within the next three years, according to an official statement for the 2007 bonds.

 

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