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Giunchigliani wants separate talks, votes for tax increases for stadium, convention center

When Clark County commissioners convene for their Nov. 15 meeting, they’ll have the option of codifying two hotel room tax increases to fund the upgrade of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the construction of a domed stadium in one fell swoop.

But if Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani has her way, commissioners will take their time before raising the tax to finance $750 million in bonds for the $1.9 billion stadium project, which could become home to the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders.

That’s in spite of the state Legislature having approved and mandated both room tax increases in a single bill in October. And the language in that bill leaves no wiggle room for commissioners to shoot down or modify the tax increases, County Manager Don Burnette said.

“My view is while you certainly have discretion on how you handle these ordinances … I don’t think it’s optional for the board to not approve the items the way the Legislature approved them,” he told commissioners Tuesday. “It’s compulsory.”

Giunchigliani disagrees.

A vocal opponent of using public funds to build the stadium, but a supporter of the funding plan for the convention center upgrades, she wants each issue to have a separate discussion and vote.

“I think people need to know all the hidden pieces in there that impact our constituents and residents,” she said of the stadium-related tax. “You’re probably going to get votes on the stadium but let’s do it the right way and not do it the irresponsible way it was done by some members of the Legislature.”

Giunchigliani, an Assembly member from 1990 to 2006, said the bill the Legislature passed does not require the commission to bundle the two tax increases into one ordinance for codification.

“We should be able to ask questions and vote our conscience,” she said. “For anyone to try to imply that the legislation requires me to vote a certain way, or the other commissioners, they’re wrong.”

The Legislature’s decision has put the County Commission and its staff in unfamiliar territory.

“I’ve never seen a piece of legislation passed that compelled the board to increase a tax for any particular purpose,” said Burnette, who has spent 26 years of working within the county manager’s office.

Giunchigliani’s request Tuesday prompted commission Chairman Steve Sisolak to request county staff to ask the Nevada attorney general’s office for an opinion on the matter.

“I was told the exact opposite, that these had to be heard by us together,” Sisolak said of the bundled tax hikes.

The stadium’s financing plan also calls for $500 million from the Raiders and $650 million from Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

At their Nov. 15 meeting, commissioners will also discuss increasing the county’s sales tax to fund the hiring of more police officers and purchasing police equipment. They are not mandated to do so, but a majority of commissioners have previously said they are comfortable with the funding mechanism.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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