Las Vegas Sun

December 17, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: CARSON CITY:

Clark County roads wait for stimulus while rurals get work

The Nevada Transportation Department has so far used its share of the federal stimulus on projects in rural Nevada.

Officials said Clark County will begin seeing its share later this year.

President Barack Obama has expressed concern about the pace of stimulus spending as the national unemployment rate grows, according to news reports.

Construction employment in Clark County has declined significantly in the past nine months. There were 94,900 workers employed in construction jobs in August 2008. That dropped to 81,100 in April, according to the latest state jobs report.

So far the Transportation Department has allocated $40.9 million in stimulus money to jobs in Pershing, Elko, Humboldt and Lander counties. The next job to be funded is a safety crossing in Elko County, estimated to cost $2.6 million to $3.2 million.

Department spokesman Scott Magruder said that of the state’s $201 million in stimulus money for road construction, $110-$120 million will be spent in Clark County.

Kent Cooper, deputy director of the department, said unlike the rural projects, the Clark County construction projects weren’t ready.

Statewide there will be five projects totaling $80 million advertised for bids between now and January.

Federal law says the state must have $72 million committed in stimulus fund projects by June 29. Cooper said the department will meet that deadline.

The department will advertise this week a $9 million landscaping job on U.S. 95 between Martin Luther King and Rainbow boulevards. A 16-mile repaving project on U.S. 93, from north of Interstate 15 at the Garnet interchange to the Lincoln County line, will be advertised June 29 and will put the state under the wire for committing its $72 million, Cooper said.

Other Southern Nevada projects — overlay projects on I-15 and U.S. 95 outside Las Vegas, and an interchange in Mesquite — will follow in August and January.

•••

Sparring between Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers and Gov. Jim Gibbons over the governor’s proposed 36 percent cut in the university system has provided a running political sideshow.

With Rogers set to retire — and, according to a recent interview, spend some of his free time campaigning to thwart Gibbons’ bid for reelection — the governor was asked in a news conference Tuesday whether he had any parting words, or a parting shot, for his sometime nemesis.

Asked what his farewell message to Rogers would be, Gibbons said: “Thanks. It takes a measure of dedication to do public service.”

The governor said he hopes to have a good relationship with Rogers’ replacement.

•••

Gibbons did take a shot at — and veto the money for — the Legislature’s plan to study the state’s tax system.

The Legislature passed a bill calling for a committee that over the next 18 months will sponsor an outside study of the state’s tax structure, make recommendations to change the tax base and start considering ways to elevate Nevada from the basement of statistical comparisons with other states on education, health and human services, economic diversification and other areas.

Gibbons vetoed Senate Bill 143, which would have provided $500,000 to pay for the study.

In his veto message Gibbons wrote: “The wording of the bill itself is broad and would allow the funds to be allocated for nearly any purpose pertaining to taxes.

“Of greater significance is the fact that the Legislature has chosen to appropriate a half-million dollars during a recession to study further tax increases. Nevada’s economy was vibrant for many years and allowed dramatic and, in hindsight, unfortunate increases in state spending.”

Other states with broader tax bases, such as California, face the same economic problems, Gibbons said in the news conference.

“Take a look at California and take a look at California’s broad-based tax system,” he said. “It’s not about taxation. It’s about spending. When you get the spending under control you will find there is no need to increase taxes.”

Correction: This story has been changed to reflect the amount that will be spent on road construction in Clark County. The amount is 110-$120 million.

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