SAN FRANCISCO — Now that Nevada’s governor has signed jobs legislation that emerged from the recent special legislative session, officials in the southern part of the state say they are prepared to hit the debt market to finance the projects that will create those jobs.
The main provision in the bill, signed Thursday by Gov. Jim Gibbons, eliminates the sunset for a 1/8% sales tax that finances transportation projects in the Las Vegas region.
The tax had been slated to sunset in either 2028 or after $1.7 billion had been collected, whichever happened first, according to Tracy Bower, spokeswoman for the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission, the agency that administers the regional program.
Eliminating the sunset provision creates additional bonding capacity, which will allow the commission to fast-track projects and get them going sooner.
“We are still working on finalizing the project list,” Bower said Monday.
At first the projects are to be financed with up to $169 million of commercial paper, probably beginning in the next three months, she said. All the debt would be issued through Clark County.
Within nine to 18 months, the county plans to issue $184 million of revenue bonds backed by the sales tax, according to Bower.
When he signed the legislation last week, the Republican Gibbons said the bill would create about 1,000 jobs on road projects.
“This bill will create new jobs and will prepare our transportation infrastructure for the economic recovery,” he said in a statement. “This jobs bill is just a small step, but it is a step in the right direction.”
On Friday, Gibbons signed the primary product of the six-day special session, an appropriations bill to close an $867 million shortfall in the state’s general fund. Before Friday was over, two opponents had filed lawsuits challenging a $62 million component of the budget fix.
The budget solutions include $585 million in spending cuts, more than $60 million in new revenue, and a $197 million “sweep” of state agency trust funds into the state general fund.
It is that sweep that provoked the two lawsuits — both challenge the sweep of $62 million from a fund that had been set up to finance a wastewater pipeline project.
The $62 million was swept from the Clean Water Coalition, a governmental joint powers authority created to finance improvements to the region’s wastewater treatment system.
The money was available because the Clean Water Coalition has suspended work on the effluent pipeline it was created to construct.
By the end of Friday, both the Clean Water Coalition and the M Resort LLC, a casino that paid fees to the coalition, had filed suits with the District Court in Clark County asking for injunctions to block the transfer, saying it was illegal to take fees collected for a specific purpose and shift them to the state’s general fund.
“A tax is a tax. And a fee is a fee. A tax is a generalized assessment which funds generalized functions beneficial to all while fees are specific assessments designed to pay for specific functions benefiting those who pay the fee,” said the M Resort complaint, posted online by the Las Vegas Sun. “The legislation at issue discards the distinction and converts fees paid by a subset of Nevadans into a de facto tax.”
The M Resort paid more than $1.5 million in sewer connection fees to the Clean Water Coalition, the lawsuit said.