Over the past few years, we have seen Nevada’s economy and population lead the country in growth. Our population and businesses have increased in number which has created an economic boom and, in turn, spurred urban and industrial development, creating thousands of new jobs and opportunities. Similarly, our state’s tourism industry has experienced a resurgence, attracting over three million visitors per month in 2019 according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. With visitors spending nearly $40 billion on travel, recreational sports and much more, Nevada’s infrastructure is now experiencing added pressure which if left unchecked could slow its economic growth.
Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Nevada’s infrastructure a “C” grade based on several different factors. Within the report, the condition of our roads received a “C” while our schools received a “C-.” It is clear that Nevada is not spending enough on roads to meet the demands of our growing population and economy. Chief among their findings was that the state has a $450 million backlog of road and bridge repairs. Most of the repairs due are in rural areas. These deficiencies will potentially cost motorists $3.2 billion statewide annually. Similarly, the increase in population has led to overcrowding and left many schools in need of serious repairs. Schools have “unfunded needs[…] in excess of $8.3 billion, with over $4.6 billion expected to be needed for modernization of existing facilities.”
With the current growing strain on everything from our roads to our schools, we simply cannot afford to wait until these systems break down to fix them.
This year the Nevada State Legislature considered prevailing wage legislation that would likely increase the cost to fix our roads and schools. If passed, they would add millions to the cost of our construction projects, limiting the number of schools and projects our state is able to build or update. One report found that the proposed prevailing wage legislation would add approximately 25 percent to the construction costs of new and expanding charter school facilities. This will eliminate the ability of many charter schools to expand and will add further pressure on our already struggling public school system.
Prevailing wage legislation would also force taxpayers to pay inflated wages that cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year. A recent study found that in Clark County, union workers on public-works projects made an average of 62 percent more than market rates. Prevailing wages would not ensure quality construction. We heard as much in committee when testimony presented showed that many times the work is being done by individuals who work both non-union and union jobs. In fact, it’s the same person with the same skills.
Over the last few years, there has been a growing national dialogue about the status of infrastructure in America. I believe this dialogue is extremely constructive because it raises awareness that our vital infrastructure systems are aging. Infrastructure is a subject that typically does not get the public’s attention until something goes wrong. However, recent public interest in infrastructure provides us with the opportunity to proactively fix problems before they become critical.
It is my hope that we move away from policies that decrease our state’s viability and the longevity of our infrastructure. Rather, I hope we work on projects that will spur economic growth and make us more competitive. With commonsense legislation, Nevada will continue to build safe infrastructure that benefits our state for generations to come.