Tax bill preserves tax break for Las Vegas stadium, convention center

Updated December 18, 2017 - 6:56 pm

WASHINGTON — The final version of the Republican tax cut bill crafted by House and Senate lawmakers would preserve the tax exemption for bonds being used to finance construction of the Raiders stadium and Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, officials said Monday.

Although support in Congress for the $1.4 trillion tax code overhaul breaks along party lines, both Republican and Democrats in Nevada had sought to preserve the tax-exempt status of bonds being used to bring the Raiders to Southern Nevada. The bill is expected to be approved by Congress this week and be signed by President Donald Trump before Christmas.

The House-Senate conference committee’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act bill kept Senate language that preserves the tax exemption over a House version that would have eliminated it for bonds used to finance professional sports stadiums.

The House proposal had called for elimination of the tax-exempt status on the bonds as part of a revenue-raising mechanism to offset tax cuts for corporations, businesses and individuals.

Lawmakers rally behind exemption

Backers of the projects said the tax break was key to keeping the stadium affordable.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which wrote the Senate version of the tax bill, had urged the conference committee to keep the tax exemption intact.

Heller said he “worked to see that the final report did not include a provision that would have banned the use of tax-exempt bonds for the construction of professional stadiums.”

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., sent a Dec. 7 letter to House and Senate leaders demanding that the House proposal to strip the exemption not be included in a final bill.

Titus remains critical of the overall bill, which she says will hurt Nevada’s working families so Trump’s “family and Republican donors can avoid paying their fair share.”

She also denounced Republicans for releasing the conference bill “from behind closed doors on a Friday night because they don’t want the American people to know what a hoax this really is.”

Projects seen as economic drivers

The Las Vegas Stadium Authority and the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee plan to use tax-exempt bonds to finance the two projects that they say will drive economic development in the valley.

The $1.9 billion Raiders stadium is supported by $750 million in public funds generated by a 0.88 percentage-point increase in Clark County’s hotel room tax. The $1.4 billion expansion and renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center is supported by a 0.5 percentage-point increase in the tax.

The tax revenue would be used to pay for both bond issues.

In her letter to congressional leaders, Titus noted that the Nevada Legislature had 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. That would have been too late to claim the tax exemption if Congress had kept the provision in the bill.

Titus also noted in the letter that the Raiders already have broken ground on the stadium.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Richard N. Velotta contributed to this story.

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