Possibly today we will find out whether the principles of the Republican Party — small government, lower taxes and free enterprise — have been sold out in Nevada, bought and paid for by the billionaire casino owners who want the public to foot a major part of the bill for an amenity to fill their hotel rooms.
On Tuesday, during a special session of the Legislature in Carson City the Senate voted 16-5 for Senate Bill 1 to raise room taxes in Las Vegas to pay for nearly 40 percent of the cost of a new domed football stadium to house the Oakland Raiders and the UNLV football team and to expand the convention center.
They took the day off Wednesday for Yom Kippur but reconvene today with the focus on whether 28 Assembly members — a required two-thirds majority — will also approve SB1.
SB1 hikes the Clark County room tax rate by 0.88 of a percentage point to fund $750 million of the potential $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat stadium. The bill also adds 0.5 of a percentage point to the room tax to raise $400 million toward a $1.4 billion upgrade of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The stadium is being pushed by casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson who promises to shell out $650 million from his rather deep pockets to pay for construction.
Oddly enough, as an alert reader has pointed out, SB1 includes a section creating a special oversight committee for the convention construction aspect of the bill, even though there already is the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Adelson has long opposed the expansion of the publicly funded convention center, contending it unfairly competes with his privately owned Sands Convention Center.
The Oversight Panel for Convention Facilities would consist of five “members who are executives or directors of construction for a resort hotel in the County and who have experience in managing the design, engineering, cost-estimating and construction of commercial conference or convention facilities” and two members who have experience in the financing of capital projects in the state.
Would this redundant oversight panel have veto power over the convention expansion? Might Adelson be able to stack the panel with his experienced executives? Is this a poison pill?
The bill, in fact, says if the oversight panel disapproves a request for a project it would require a two-thirds majority of the convention center board to override that decision.
Just how Machiavellian is Adelson?
Also, pay no heed to the fact that the Nevada Constitution specifically states: “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.”
That’s why it is being touted as a “public” stadium even though all the profits go into private hands.