- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada lawmakers spent Thursday combing through bills that would authorize $335 million in incentives to attract upstart electric carmaker Faraday Future to North Las Vegas, but they ended their workday with plenty of unfinished business and plans to meet up again on Friday morning.

Senate and Assembly leaders adjourned for the day before 6 p.m. Thursday, saying there was still much work to be done on amendments to the two bills they’ve been considering. The biggest issue slowing down the process is disagreement on water-rights issues - a sticky point for the driest state in the nation.

Some lawmakers have raised concerns over a section of a Senate bill that would speed up the process of allocating water rights when a major economic development project is on the line. Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler said the language gives the state water engineer too much power. He said it isn’t appropriate to make a potentially far-reaching change to water law during a brief special session.

Assembly members spent their day working on a bill to revamp Nevada’s workforce development programs, which state officials say must be improved to keep Nevada workers competitive. It would create the Workforce Innovations for a New Nevada (WINN) program and apply $2.5 million to the account with transfers from Nevada’s general fund and the state Office of Science, Innovation and Technology.

State officials would meet with major new businesses moving to Nevada and work with them to develop a customized training program, said Dale Erquiaga, chief strategy officer for Gov. Brian Sandoval. The WINN account would provide startup money so colleges or other agencies can develop the training, which is modeled after initiatives in Georgia and Louisiana.

Democrats pushed to require participating companies to craft a state-approved “diversity action plan.”

Proponents of that idea, including Democratic Sen. Aaron Ford, said it would help minority communities, veterans and people with disabilities take advantage of the state’s recovering economy. Those groups have higher unemployment rates than the general Nevada population, which has a jobless rate of 6.5 percent.

The session, initiated by Sandoval, began Wednesday evening and is expected to last until Friday or Saturday. It’s called special because the Legislature typically only meets for four months every other spring.

Sandoval wants lawmakers to approve a new category of tax abatements that would authorize $215 million in tax credits and abatements for the Chinese-backed automaker, which hopes to break ground on a 3 million-square-foot facility in North Las Vegas.

He’s also asking legislators to tweak laws that allow financing for infrastructure projects. Nevada officials want to publicly finance $120 million in water, rail and road improvements at the Apex Industrial Park in North Las Vegas.

Senators reviewing the infrastructure proposal were told that efforts to widen a road and build a “flyover” to ease entry into the park would be a priority but would have minimal impact on other projects in the state’s queue. They were also warned that issuing bonds to fund water and railroad projects could force the state to raise taxes if Faraday and its neighbors fail to generate new tax revenue, although that scenario is considered remote.

Faraday Future, based in Gardena, California, has offered few details about its product, but it plans to unveil a concept car ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. It hopes to bring a vehicle to market as early as 2017, and it plans to employ 4,500 people at its plant.

The venture is backed by Jia Yueting, an online video and gadget entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Beijing-based holding company LeTV. He styles himself after Apple’s late Steve Jobs.

The agreement is projected to bring state and local governments $760 million in tax revenue - three times the amount of tax abatements and credits the state plans to offer the company.

It’s also expected to have a ripple effect on the southern Nevada economy that’s comparable to that of Tesla’s massive battery factory outside of Reno. Tesla has “lifted the market in northern Nevada,” raised property values and will raise average wages, said Steve Hill, state director of economic development.

He also predicted more opportunities will come to Nevada as it gains a reputation as a global center of advanced transportation.

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