Lawmakers urged to boost oversight of Vegas monorail

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- An Assembly panel was urged Tuesday to boost lawmakers' oversight of the $650 million Las Vegas Monorail project.

Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, asked the Assembly Elections, Procedures and Ethics Committee to endorse her SB362, which requires the Las Vegas Monorail Co. to turn over financial data to the Legislature.

The bill also authorizes a legislative audit of the big project in the event the company doesn't give lawmakers copies of its annual audited financial statement.

Titus said the review authority is important given recent reports about financial problems at Bombardier Inc., the Canadian aircraft and rail car manufacturer that is the main contractor for the monorail.

"You can see there are some real serious financial problems with that company," she said. "And that, I think, suggests that the state should be having more oversight into the issue."

"The state must be diligent during a time when revenues are stretched, when the economic future of the state is uncertain."

The Senate minority leader added that the monorail project is relying on funding from many sources and used "the state's good name" to generate bond revenue to pay for construction.

The bond issue was by far the largest in state history and drew criticism as "corporate welfare."

Despite the state's involvement, Titus said the big project is one "over which we have very little control and we know very little about."

The monorail system should be completed by early 2004. Proponents say an estimated 19 million people will use the monorail each year, easing vehicle traffic on streets and highways and reducing pollution from car engines.

But Titus questioned whether tourists would flock to the monorail when they can ride roller coasters at Las Vegas Strip megaresorts. Elections Chairwoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, added monorails seemed to be "antiquated."

The committee took no immediate action on the bill, which already has won Senate approval.


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