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Nevada teachers union vows to fight public funding for A’s Vegas stadium

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
Election 2024Legislature
Students and teachers with the Nevada State Education Association rally outside the Legislature on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent).

The Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) launched a campaign Thursday to stop public funding for the construction of a new baseball stadium for the Oakland A’s in Las Vegas, with the statewide teachers union vowing to pursue “every possible path” to stop the use of public financing, including litigation or even a referendum effort.

The campaign comes in the form of a new political action committee (PAC) — Schools Over Stadiums — that the union registered on Wednesday with the secretary of state’s office. 

Representatives of the union said that the campaign and PAC are responding to a “giveaway of hundreds of millions in tax dollars to a California billionaire for a stadium” at a time when Nevada schools are ranked as among the worst in the country.

“Nevada's priorities are misguided, and public funds should not go to a California billionaire for a stadium," NSEA President Dawn Etcheverry said in the release. 

After the end of the 2023 legislative session, Gov. Joe Lombardo convened a special session in early June to pass a bill financing the construction of a stadium for the Oakland A’s Major League Baseball team. 

After much discussion and several amendments, lawmakers passed the bill that committed up to $380 million in public financing through a combination of tax credits and county-issued bonds to help fund the project. The proposed $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat baseball stadium is set to be built on the south end of the Strip on 9 acres of a 35-acre parcel that houses the Tropicana Hotel Casino.

The special session took place after lawmakers failed to pass a stadium funding bill in the regular 120-day session on account of a budget standoff between the governor and Democratic lawmakers. 

In the Thursday press release, NSEA members criticized the decision to call a special session over public financing for the stadium when legislators failed to take significant action to reduce class sizes or generate new revenue for schools and educators.

“Instead of hiring part-time stadium workers, let’s ensure each student has a qualified and full-time educator in the classroom,” said Vicki Kreidel, president of NSEA affiliate group NEA of Southern Nevada.

To get an initiative or referendum on the ballot that proposes or repeals language for state law, a petitioner must obtain signatures from at least 10 percent of the voters in the previous general election — meaning that at least 102,586 signatures are needed to get an initiative or referendum on the 2024 ballot. At least 25,647 signatures would need to come from each of the state’s four congressional districts.

Petitioners would need to file with the secretary of state no earlier than Aug. 1, then within 10 business days, the secretary of state would post a copy of the petition, and petitioners could begin collecting signatures. The petitioners must collect and submit signatures by July 8, 2024. 

If a petition receives enough signatures and a simple majority of Nevadans vote in favor of the corresponding ballot question, it would pass and change state law.

The NSEA is the state affiliate of the National Education Association that represents educators throughout the state. Though the NSEA is pushing for the initiative, a separate union that is the recognized bargaining unit for educators within the Clark County School District, the Clark County Education Association (CCEA), is not participating.

“We’re not involved, and we wouldn’t follow the lead of an irrelevant organization,” CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said, adding that Democrats passed the bill, a Republican governor signed it, and the stadium seems like a settled matter.

Vince Saavedra, executive secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building Trades Unions, expressed worries about the effect overturning the bill could have on job opportunities.

“While we understand the importance of education funding, it is crucial to recognize that opposing the Athletics' move to Las Vegas and the construction of a ballpark will not directly translate into increased pay for teachers, but it will translate to lost jobs for our hardworking families,” Saavedra wrote in a text message to The Nevada Independent.

A spokesman for Bally’s Corp., which operates the Tropicana and is giving the team the land for the stadium, declined to comment on the PAC or potential referendum. A spokesperson for the A’s said the team was aware of the PAC filing and the NSEA’s opposition testimony to SB1, but declined further comment.

In an interview Thursday, MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle said he was aware of the potential referendum but the casino giant, which has five resorts with more than 13,000 hotel rooms directly across from the Tropicana, was still supportive of building the stadium.

“It’s our clear view that this is in the public's best interest [and] it’s in the community's best interest,” Hornbuckle said. “[The stadium] would drive tourism. I think we've now proven it with T-Mobile Arena and it's been proven with Allegiant Stadium beyond anyone's expectation. I think [the stadium] is additive in that context.”

Hornbuckle said the company “was not a fan” if hotel room taxes were used to fund the baseball stadium, even though MGM Resorts was one of the primary proponents of the $750 million in room tax revenue used to build the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium.

The $380 million tax package for the baseball stadium does not require hotel room taxes and MGM took a much larger interest in the development once it was locked into the Tropicana site.

“We think it’s accretive for us given its location. I’d be hard pressed to say otherwise,” Hornbuckle said. “But we also think it’s accretive for the community. It’s going to bring close to a half million tourists here focused on the summer months.”

The effort to stop the public financing package echoes a failed ballot initiative the NSEA pushed in 2014 that sought to implement a 2 percent margin tax on Nevada businesses making more than $1 million in annual revenue a year in an effort to fund schools. The initiative was filed jointly by the Nevada AFL-CIO and the NSEA, but the AFL-CIO eventually opposed it.

Though the NSEA spent more than $1.6 million dollars on the campaign, a coalition to defeat the margin tax funded by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Nevada Mining Association and businesses such as the Las Vegas Sands spent more than $4.9 million on the effort to kill it. 

The ballot initiative failed with more than 78 percent of voters opposing it.


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