Kirkpatrick says state recovery tied to North Las Vegas

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick offered business owners a state-level view of Southern Nevada’s economic recovery Feb. 6, reassuring the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce that the region was making major strides and could count on continued support from its state legislators.

“We still need to decide what kind of economy we want to be here in Southern Nevada,” Kirkpatrick told business leaders during a chamber-hosted breakfast at the Cannery in North Las Vegas. “(The state) took $5 million and invested it in the (federal) drone application, so I think health care and aviation are two industries we need to focus on.”

Kirkpatrick spoke for around 20 minutes before fielding questions on topics ranging from small-business tax incentives to the Southern Nevada Health District.

Many, if not most, chamber members seemed to share Joe Tuzzolino’s concerns over a proposed 2 percent margins tax set to hit ballots in November.

Tuzzolino, attending on behalf of conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, wasn’t alone in suggesting that the tax aimed at propping up statewide education funding would kill jobs and benefit only state teachers’ unions.

That could help explain why the five-term Assemblywoman, unlike many of her Democratic colleagues, has decided to hedge her support for the move.

“Honestly, there are still a lot of questions,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s a very complicated issue I support funding for education and funding for mental health, but it’s too complicated an issue for a yes or no answer at this time.”

Kirkpatrick, whose district includes North Las Vegas, didn’t face a direct question on the financial health of the state’s fourth-largest city.

She made time to remark on it anyway, highlighting new aviation and food distribution companies set to touch down north of Carey Avenue in the near future.

Kirkpatrick didn’t volunteer specifics on those new businesses but praised officials’ recent attempts to streamline the city’s business licensing process and sell its decades-old police headquarters, moves they hope will help dig the city out of a seven-year, $152.6 million budget hole.

City officials could face a state takeover if they can’t balance North Las Vegas’ books in June, a prospect no one at the state or city level is excited to talk about.

Legislators could also look to revise the state’s severe financial emergency statute so as to allow the city to file for bankruptcy in lieu of taking a state bailout.

Asked about the possibility, Kirkpatrick offered only that the statute as written “could use a little clarity.” She also hinted that legislators might not have enough money in the state’s revolving fund to keep North Las Vegas on life support for long.

It’s not clear which of the city’s two worst-case scenarios — insolvency or state receivership — might count as the lesser evil to state leaders.

Kirkpatrick, for one, didn’t want to pick between the two.

“We have to get North Las Vegas from today until next February,” she said. “There is no special session to go in and change policy. … We have to get them to February, then we can look at some other options.”

Contact Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839.