Nevada bills target truckers to foot bill for roadwork
05/22/2009 - 12:23:15 pm
Fueling up in Nevada could cost truckers an extra 7 cents per gallon if an effort recently tucked into a bill becomes law. Also drawing attention at the statehouse is a bill on its way to the governor’s desk, which would permit increasing fuel taxes to pay for roadwork across Washoe County.
The Senate Taxation Committee approved legislation Friday, May 15, which includes a hefty tax increase on diesel bought throughout the state. The panel voted 4-1 to insert a provision into AB235 to increase the state’s 27.75-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel to 34.75 cents.
The bill’s next stop is the full Senate. If approved there, it would need approval of changes in the Assembly before it could go to Gov. Jim Gibbons where a likely veto would await.
With the exception of Washoe County, every county throughout the state also could ask voters whether to index the diesel tax. Washoe County is not included in the provision because voters already approved fuel indexing.
Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Motor Transport Association, didn’t mince words when describing the sequence of events in committee that led to the statewide increase being inserted into AB235.
“This was a sneak attack. It was sneaked into a bill that dealt with biodiesel. The only people that got a copy of the amendment were the Associated General Contractors who are supporting this bill,” Enos told Land Line Now. “The trucking industry was not afforded that opportunity.”
Enos also pointed out that the legislation has problems with wording that is caused by the limited involvement.
“When you have these kinds of issues come up and they’re not thoroughly vetted by the people it’s going to impact, by experts in their industry, and it’s just politicians doing this behind the bar and special interests groups that are going to benefit from it – that’s not good public policy. That’s politics at its worst,” Enos said.
Also added to the bill is a similar provision that was included in a separate effort the Assembly voted 34-5 to advance to the governor. That bill – SB201 – would allow gas and diesel taxes in Washoe County to be increased at rates equal to inflation of construction costs. Senate lawmakers already approved it by a 20-1 margin.
Enos said that AB235 would allow counties to apply indexing solely to diesel.
In November, Washoe County voters approved an advisory question allowing local transportation officials to pursue state legislation to adjust gasoline and diesel taxes to help offset a shortfall for street repairs, highway and transit systems.
It is estimated that the measure would increase the tax paid in the county on a gallon of gasoline by 2 cents per gallon. The county tax paid on a gallon of diesel would increase about 2.4 cents.
Gov. Gibbons is expected to veto the bill allowing the increase. He cited concern that voters might not have understood they were being asked to support a tax hike. The governor is opposed to tax increases.
Bill advocates say they are preparing for a veto override attempt. Both chambers would need to maintain their two-thirds majority support to withstand a veto. The likelihood of the diesel tax increase in AB235 being able to withstand a veto is perceived to be much less likely.
If SB201 becomes law, the Washoe County Commission would be given authority to impose a motor vehicle fuel tax to fund street and highway projects in the county. It could raise an estimated $2.6 billion during the next 30 years, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Commissioners would use the proceeds to finance $250 million in bonds during the next three years.
Supporters say voters endorsed the plan on the November ballot. They also say it would reduce traffic congestion while creating an estimated 3,000 jobs.
Among the expressed concerns about the bill is the loss of revenue the county would experience from truckers who opt to fuel up elsewhere.
By Keith Goble, state legislative editor Land Line Magazine
Land Line Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this report