CARSON CITY, Nev. - A stadium financing bill aimed at drawing the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas cleared a major hurdle Tuesday after being approved by the Nevada Senate, but not before lawmakers amended the measure to strengthen its benefits for the community.
The 13-8 Senate vote marks another step as the bill moves through the Democratic-controlled Legislature while reviving the national debate over public funding for private sports clubs. The bill, which has the support of Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, must now be considered by the state Assembly.
A’s representatives and some Nevada tourism officials have said the measure could add to Las Vegas’ growing sports scene and act as an economic engine. But a growing chorus of economists and some lawmakers have warned that such a project would bring minimal benefits when compared to the hefty public price tag.
Senate approval came after days of closed-door negotiations and a contentious hearing about the bill, which calls for contributing $380 million in public funding for the proposed $1.5 billion stadium.
"I assure every Nevadan, even those of you who have concerns about this bill — I assure you that if you see where the bill started and where it is now, that there’s not a single Nevadan that won’t say this bill was much better," said Democratic Sen. Edgar Flores.
Republican Sen. Ira Hansen was among a bipartisan group of senators still concerned about the amount of public funding that would be spend on the project.
"Honestly, if it was my own money, it’s a good deal. I would probably vote yes. But it’s not my money," Hansen said. "It’s the taxpayers’ money, and we should do all we can to ensure the private sector does these sorts of investments."
Amendments to the bill include diversity requirements for stadium and construction jobs as well as community service requirements for Athletics players. They also would accelerate the funneling of money generated from operations to a homelessness prevention account and make a larger share of $180 million in state transferable tax credits that are proposed for the stadium refundable to the state.
Lawmakers also inserted changes unrelated to the stadium proposal but which mirror legislation Lombardo vetoed earlier this month.
One would require all Nevada companies with at least 50 full-time employees to establish paid family and medical leave to qualify for certain tax abatements. Another would remove a provision that exempts railroad workers under state contracts from being paid the prevailing wage for similar work in the region.
Last month, Lombardo’s office introduced the stadium financing bill with less than two weeks left in the legislative session. He called lawmakers into the special session after the bill failed to pass during the regular session.
The $380 million in public funds for the stadium would mainly come from the $180 million in transferable tax credits and $120 million in county bonds. Backers have pledged that the creation of a special tax district around the proposed stadium would generate enough money to pay off those bonds and interest. The plan would not directly raise taxes unless the county cannot pay off its bonds, as is the case with other general obligation bonds.
The A’s would not owe property taxes for the publicly-owned stadium. Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, would also contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.
The proposed 30,000-seat stadium would be the smallest in Major League Baseball.
Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service that places journalists in newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.