By Sandra Chereb
Nevada lawmakers want to set up a special bank within state government to position the state to receive federal funds and leverage those dollars for infrastructure projects.
Senate Bill 517, a bipartisan measure heard Tuesday by the Senate Transportation Committee, would establish a Nevada Transportation Infrastructure Bank and authorize it to make loans to local governments.
“The infrastructure bank, it’s a structure that the federal government likes to use now to give control to state governments and use that money for infrastructure needs,” Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, said of the bill.
“It’s a tool.”
More than 30 states already have such banks in place, supporters said, and each state has its own regulations and limitations beyond federal requirements on how the funding can be used.
The bill does not require any state funding because the program is not established.
“The main idea of the whole bank is to be able to receive funding from the federal government,” Hammond said.
Under the proposal, local governments could tap the bank for loans to obtain lower interest rates or access bond markets, among other things.
The bank would be overseen by a five-member board consisting of directors or designees from the Department of Business and Industry; state treasurer’s office; the Governor’s Office of Economic Development; and the Department of Transportation. The governor would appoint one member.
Members would serve without compensation.
Hammond said former President Barack Obama talked about how to fund infrastructure needs, as did Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign. He said the administration of President Donald Trump is also considering the use of infrastructure banks as a method to funnel money to states.
“When they start talking about competitive grants … we have to have all of the infrastructure bank ready and that’s what this does,” Hammond said.
“I think once they decide this is how they’re going to deliver money to the state, if we don’t have this in place, then we’ll have to have a special session to put it in place,” he said.
“By then it might be too late.”
No action on the bill was taken Tuesday and amendments were discussed to include a sub-account for utility projects, which would be separate from transportation-related infrastructure.
Republished from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.