Titus asks committee to allow tax-exempt bonds for Raiders stadium

Updated December 7, 2017 - 5:53 pm

Rep. Dina Titus has written congressional leaders urging a conference committee to add language that would exempt two major Las Vegas projects from a bill that would ban the use of tax-exempt bonds for stadiums used by professional sports teams.

In a letter dated Thursday, Titus, D-Nev., asked that the Las Vegas stadium and Las Vegas Convention Center expansion projects be allowed to use tax-exempt bonds to finance construction.

A ban on the use of tax-exempt bonds is spelled out in Republican-backed tax reform legislation approved by the House and Senate. Because different versions of the bill were approved by both houses, the proposal must go to a conference committee to resolve differences. Titus is hopeful the committee “will consider adding the necessary language to exempt these projects.”

The two projects include the planned $1.9 billion Las Vegas stadium being undertaken by the Oakland Raiders and supported by $750 million in public funds generated by a 0.88 percentage-point increase in Clark County’s hotel room tax as well as a $1.4 billion expansion and renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center, supported by a 0.5 percentage-point increase in the tax. Tax revenue would be used to pay for both bond issues.

Cost increase

The House version of the bill clearly bans the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance or refinance a building “used as a stadium or arena for professional sports exhibitions, games or training.” Steve Hill, chairman of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, said the inability to use tax-exempt bonds would increase the cost of financing bonds by about $3 million a year.

The Stadium Authority and the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee have long considered the use of tax-exempt bonds as a mechanism to make the stadium affordable as an economic development driver for Southern Nevada. Hill indicated in November that should the bill become law, it wouldn’t kill the stadium financing plan, but reduce the amount of money available for other expenses.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority also is concerned about the bill because in the past, some convention facilities have been used for professional bowling, boxing and team-sport exhibitions.

Spring bond issue

The letter explained how the Nevada Legislature approved the use of municipal bonds to build the stadium and convention center projects, but that the bonds wouldn’t be issued until spring when the final agreements between the Raiders and the Stadium Authority are completed. She noted that the Raiders already have broken ground on the stadium. A contract for a project designer is expected to be approved by the LVCVA board of directors later this month.

“Many communities across the country have benefited from the tax-exempt status of bonds for professional stadiums, with 36 major-league stadiums of 45 built since 2000 financed at least in part with these bonds,” Titus’ letter said. “I ask that you provide Las Vegas the opportunity to use this same financial mechanism for our project.”

A spokesman for Titus said the first meeting of conferees is in the works.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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