How Nevada’s infrastructure report card could benefit the state

April 18, 2021
In The News

Nevada’s drinking water infrastructure will need more than $5 billion in maintenance costs over the next two decades. Internet access in portions of the state’s vast rural areas is lacking. And extreme weather has brought more than $1 billion in repairs over the last decade.

The bill would provide funding for all types of infrastructure, including child care, veterans’ health care and green energy, in legislation supported by many Democrats. Nevada’s congressional Democrats have signaled they are in favor of the bill.

These issues were part of a list of Nevada infrastructure needs released by the Biden administration last week in a push for support of the president’s massive $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Plan.

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., says that investing in infrastructure goes beyond rebuilding roads and bridges. Rather, it’s about developing “resilient infrastructure” that would increase affordable housing, expand clean energy jobs and secure the country against the climate crisis, he said.

The administration released a state-by-state infrastructure report card this past week, which assigned Nevada’s infrastructure a C grade and showed the Silver State has varying levels of need across different portions of its infrastructure that will cost billions to fully fix.

Some other areas that the administration has targeted as being in need of additional funding in Nevada include an increase in affordable housing availability; expanding caregiving options for older people and those with disabilities; an infusion of funds to increase manufacturing jobs; and health services for the state’s 215,000 resident veterans.

The plan also invests in clean energy jobs, proponents of which have long held both combat climate change and help diversify the Nevada’s tourism-reliant economy. The plan seeks to invest $111 billion for clean, safe drinking water in all communities across the country.

“It’s the right thing to do for the environment. It is addressing the climate crisis, and … it is helping to diversify our economy,” Horsford said of Biden’s infrastructure package.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., whose district makes up much of Las Vegas city limits along with the Strip, said she was laser-focused on passing an infrastructure package, calling it her “main priority.”

“President Biden put forward a framework that would update and improve our infrastructure while creating millions of new jobs,” Titus said in a news release. “Now it’s up to us to work out the details over the next few months.”

Horsford said the package would bring “actual job creation and investment that we desperately need,” a goal Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., shared in a statement stressing she wants to ensure any infrastructure package passed would bring jobs to the state in the pandemic recovery.

“Improving our nation’s infrastructure has long been a priority of mine, and the American Jobs Plan’s investments in traditional and emerging technologies — from road and building infrastructure to electric vehicle charging stations and 5G expansion — will be good for the environment and our economy,” she said in a statement.

While Democrats have expressed hope that the plan passes with bipartisan support, the price tag has not appealed so far to congressional Republicans, and supporters are watching moderate Democrats like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has signaled his disapproval of the package’s proposed increase in the corporate tax rate to pay for much of the cost. The plan would set the corporate tax rate at 28%, up from the 21% rate instituted in President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul in 2017.

Without at least some bipartisan support, Horsford said the package could be moved forward as part of the budget reconciliation process, a procedure in which some legislation can be passed with a simple majority in the U.S. Senate, where rules generally require a 60-vote majority for legislation to win a floor vote.

Citing polling that shows public support for the plan, Horsford said he’s hopeful Biden’s package will gather support from both parties.

“If Republicans in Congress would just listen to their constituents, then they’ll vote for the bill,” he said.

Here’s how Nevada could benefit:

Transportation

According to the administration, Nevada has 28 bridges and over 1,090 miles of highway in poor condition. Drivers pay $558 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair, and commute times have increased by 7.7% in the state since 2011.

Titus said that it was up to lawmakers to work out the details of the plan over the next few months and that she would work on those issues as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Ultimately, the American Jobs Plan should advance I-11 between Las Vegas and Phoenix, reduce traffic on I-15 and support passenger rail service between Las Vegas and Los Angeles,” she said in a statement.

Proposed future routes for I-11, the first portion of which opened in 2018, would run through Horsford’s district, and he stressed the development of the route was important.

“We’ve been very active to make sure that we keep that high on the priority list,” he said.

The bill could also restart Amtrak rail service to Las Vegas years after it was stopped in the 1990s by granting a financial infusion to the government-operated corporation. Horsford said that it was important that any funding for rail service extension ensures the route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas comes through.

“It’s about making the case for these investments in Nevada versus other jurisdictions,” he said.

Biden’s plan would provide $85 billion for public transit and $200 billion for traffic infrastructure and public transportation, which could go toward developing the goals Titus and Horsford outlined.

Housing

According to the report card, 243,000 renters in Nevada spend more than 30% of their income on rent, due partly to a lack of available and affordable housing.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Nevada has a shortage of 84,320 affordable homes for extremely low-income renters, defined as those below the federal poverty line or below 30% of the average income of their area.

An average low-income family, according to the report card, spends between 6%-8% of its income on home energy costs.

The Biden administration’s plan would invest $200 billion toward affordable housing, and direct funding to make low-income housing more energy efficient through investments in Department of Energy programs and expanding tax credits for home energy upgrades.

Broadband access

The plan would earmark $100 billion for the expansion of high-speed internet coverage, a major issue in Nevada where portions of the population live in deeply rural areas where internet service is not readily available.

Rural broadband access has been a goal of many members of the Nevada congressional delegation for years, with many signing on to legislation that would increase broadband access.

According to the Biden administration, 8.6% of Nevadans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds, 72% of Nevadans only have access to one such provider and 14% of households do not have an internet subscription.