October 20, 2016 – By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
State Sen. Julia Ratti, who represented Northern Nevada’s District 13 in the recent special session of the Legislature to pass a hotel room tax to help fund the Raiders football stadium in Las Vegas, said impoverished citizens who live in weekly room rentals in Clark County will also be hit with the tax.
Proponents of the stadium deal, who saw super majority approvals from both houses of the Legislature, have characterized the tax as a tax on tourists only — or those who stay in Las Vegas hotels — and would not impact citizens of Nevada.
The fact that the room tax would also hit weekly rentals and those staying in RV parks did not come up when the Senate passed the measure, 16-5, Ratti said Thursday on Nevada Newsmakers.
Ratti was one of the five senators who voted against the deal.
“Unfortunately, that bit of information didn’t come up when we were contemplating the bill in the Senate,” said Ratti, D-Sparks. “It did come up on the Assembly side and the truth is, yes, it is unfortunate but the tax will be applied to everything that qualifies as lodging as far as the hotel room taxes go. So it hits those low-income weekly rentals. The $2 (tax), that becomes a big deal for some of those families. So it is really unfortunate and in my mind, another reason to vote no.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the deal into law on Monday which will pledge $750 million of Clark County room tax money to the $1.9 billion stadium project to lure the NFL’s Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.
The deal passed by lawmakers also has no provisions for a Raiders training camp in the Reno area. That idea was floated before the special session as a possibility but did not come up during the session, Ratti said.
“In terms of the Northern Nevada training camp, it is not in the bill and was not addressed in any way, shape or form in the legislation,” Ratti said. “It is just something that the owners said they’d be interested in doing but it was not part of the legislation.”
Ratti was appointed to the District 13 state senate seat for the special session by the Washoe County Commission. Ratti resigned her post on the Sparks City Council to take the state senate position for the special session. She is also running for the District 13 state senate seat in the November election after the seat was vacated by the death of former state Sen Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.
Ratti said on Newsmakers that she was approached by Sen. Smith’s family shortly after her death in February to run for the District 13 seat to continue the progressive work of Sen. Smith.
The special session was called for October to fit with the timetable of the NFL owners for possibly moving the team out of Oakland.
Ratti said she was puzzled by the timing of the special session.
“One of the things that I thought was most odd about this entire process was calling a special session three weeks before an election,” Ratti said. “It was called an emergency session and I just didn’t see the emergency. I think for folks who are on the ballot three weeks from now, that’s interesting and more importantly, in three weeks from now they might have a new representative. So what was the rush?”
When told the rush was because of deadlines set by NFL owners, Ratti responded, “For me, that doesn’t meet the definition of an emergency.”
Ratti said she hopes her vote against the stadium tax deal does not paint her as “anti-business” to members of the Las Vegas gaming industry.
“I had very many respectful conversations with the folks who represent the gaming industry along the Strip and what I tried to do was be prepared to be articulate and be well reasoned,” she said. “I didn’t come out attacking anybody. I didn’t say anyone was dishonest or unintelligent. I just said here is what I believe is right and here is why. And for the most part, the feedback that I received to date was that, ‘We appreciate that you have looked at it this closely and we appreciate your point of view.’ So, so far, no, I don’t believe that to be true.”