Nevada Governor Signs Highway Funding Bill

CARSON CITY (AP) - A $1 billion plan to cover part of a $5 billion shortfall in funding for highway projects that will ease congestion on Nevada highways - especially in the Las Vegas area - has been signed into law by Govenor Jim Gibbons.

The governor signed AB-595 on Wednesday in Carson City, and followed up with a ceremonial signing Thursday in Las Vegas.

"We needed innovative funding, not something that would create new or increased taxes. This enables growth to pay for growth," said Gibbons spokesman Brent Boynton.

The bill diverts $20 million annually from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, as well as $44.3 million from existing rental car taxes and $170 million in property tax revenue earmarked for capital projects in Washoe and Clark Counties. The rental car and property taxes will be collected over eight years.

The money will finance $1 billion in bonds for upgrades to Interstate 15 and U.S. 95 in the Las Vegas area and Interstate 80 in the Reno area. The new law guarantees that money raised in one county, stays in that county.

An earlier plan to raise the weight-and-distance tax paid by truckers met resistance from the trucking industry and would have been difficult to pass with Gibbons vowing to veto any tax increases.

The current plan was a compromise between Gibbons and several key lawmakers, including Assembly Transportation Chairman Kelvin Atkinson, Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, Sen. John Lee and Senate Transportation Chairman Dennis Nolan, all from the Las Vegas area. The gambling industry also was involved in negotiations.

The state is facing a growing shortfall in funding for transportation projects partly because of high inflation in the cost of construction materials. Lawmakers have acknowledged the plan is only a partial solution, but will cover costs for at least a few years.

Besides the $1 billion generated through AB595, Gibbons said the
state Transportation Department has another $1.2 billion in regular funding for road construction in the upcoming two-year budget cycle. Most of the projects are in the Las Vegas area.

An attempt to create five advisory ballot questions that would have asked voters how they'd like to pay for roads passed the Assembly but failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2007 legislative session.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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