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Governor’s review finds state spending split equitably between northern, southern Nevada

CARSON CITY — While Gov. Brian Sandoval’s new budget appears to favor northern Nevada in priorities for capital construction, a review of spending on major building projects over the past 15 years shows an equitable distribution of funding with the south.

Sandoval has recommended a new DMV building, a veterans home and an engineering building at the University of Nevada, Reno, in his capital construction priorities for the 2017-19 budget. The three projects total $161 million although much of the money will come from federal funds and contributions by UNR.

Southern Nevada is in line for $37 million for a National Guard Readiness Center in North Las Vegas, plus $2.8 million to equip the UNLV Hotel College Building that was approved by lawmakers in 2015.

A state review of 49 major projects valued at $8 million or more dating from 2001 through the current budget shows Southern Nevada receiving 70 percent of capital construction funding. The other 30 percent has been spent in the remainder of the state.

Of the project total, 33 were in Southern Nevada and 16 in the north.

The square footage breakdown also shows 70 percent of the construction occurring in Southern Nevada.Major Nevada construction (Gabriel Utasi/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The list does not include road funding, which is authorized through the state Transportation Commission and does not come directly to the Legislature for approval.

SENSITIVE SUBJECT

Equity between the two ends of the state has always been a sensitive issue for lawmakers and taxpayers, but does not appear to be emerging as a concern this session — at least so far.

The information was prepared by the Sandoval administration in an effort to dispel concerns by Southern Nevada lawmakers that capital construction has favored one region over another.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, has expressed concern that $5 million in advance planning for a health sciences building at the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus did not make the cut in the final Public Works Board approved projects. He said getting that initial funding will be a priority for him this session.

But the project has nothing to do with any north-south debate, Ford said.

“In my heart of hearts, I’m looking at this from a statewide perspective,” he said.

ADDRESSING NEED

Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said the governor’s construction recommendations are a work in progress until lawmakers make the final decisions. But she has not heard of any fairness concerns raised.

Carlton said she is more concerned about getting maintenance and health and safety projects funded. There is a big backlog because money has been tight in recent years, she said.

Assembly Minority Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, said no questions have been raised about the projects.

“Seventy percent of the population lives in the south, and when you have that many people down there you want to make sure that the priorities are set where the needs are greatest,” he said. “It’s just a matter of making sure those priorities are met.”

WHERE THE DOLLARS WENT

In the overall spending review, a total of $113.8 million was on military-related projects between 2001 and 2015, with $88.3 million, or 78 percent, was spent in the south.

For Nevada System of Higher Education projects, $369 million of the $590 million total, or 62.5 percent, spent in the south.

For state projects, $385.9 million, or 78 percent of the total, has been spent in the south.

The capital construction program recommended by Sandoval totals $344 million, with new projects totaling $202 million. The remainder is primarily for maintenance and project continuations.

Southern Nevada saw several major projects approved in 2015, including nearly $50 million in funding for a new UNLV Hotel College academic building and almost $23 million for a new DMV service office at the East Sahara location in Las Vegas.

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

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