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Governor welcomes debate over Las Vegas stadium plan, touts project’s benefits

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval said Tuesday he is glad lawmakers are asking tough questions about the proposed stadium project and acknowledged that some critics will never be satisfied that it will be good for Nevada’s economic development efforts.

But Sandoval said the room tax increase proposed to provide $750 million in public financing for the $1.9 billion domed stadium will ultimately benefit education and other programs in the form of new sales and other tax revenues.

“I think the Legislature is doing a good job in asking the tough questions,” he said. “These are questions I asked myself during the process of the tourism and infrastructure committee but these are questions that need to be asked in a larger venue.”

Sandoval said the stadium project will always have opponents.

“And I appreciate and respect that, but I think the process is running well,” he said.

Sandoval said those who criticize the stadium project for relying on the room tax increase do not recognize the overall benefits.

“That room tax is intended for investment for improving the tourism infrastructure,” he said. “That room tax money, as it flows through the convention center and the stadium and any other ancillary business, will become sales tax and modified business tax.”

A report to the Legislature shows nearly $42 million being generated in additional state taxes from the project, including $13.5 million in sales tax and $15.6 million from the live entertainment tax.

“So that room tax money … will be very beneficial to education as well,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said he is optimistic that National Football League owners will vote to relocate the Raiders to Las Vegas if the financing package for the stadium and convention center wins approval from lawmakers in the special session now underway.

If the Raiders don’t come, the stadium proposed for Las Vegas won’t be built, Sandoval said.

Senate Bill 1, the legislation that would authorize the public financing for expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the proposed stadium, does allow for an option for UNLV to proceed with a smaller stadium project if the Raiders move does not occur.

There was some urgency for Sandoval in calling the special session this week because of the NFL owners fall meeting scheduled Oct. 18-19 in Houston, where a Raiders’ potential move to Las Vegas could come up for discussion.

Raiders officials have indicated that if the stadium deal passes, they will present a plan to the owners next week and officially announce their intentions to relocate to Las Vegas.

A vote on relocation could come at a January owners meeting, also in Houston.

As to the proposal for a one-tenth of a percentage point increase in the sales tax to pay for more police in Las Vegas, Sandoval said he submitted that measure because of the need expressed by Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak and Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, on Monday questioned the need to push the measure, Assembly Bill 1, through in a special session.

“Everyone knows that this is a different time and with the risks that are out there,” Sandoval said. “We don’t want to have what has happened — those terrible tragedies that happened in Orlando (Florida) and other places — so I think it is very important to have a strong public safety component particularly for the residents of Southern Nevada but also for the visitors who come here.”

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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