Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2015

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Las Vegas gas prices likely headed up, if Nevada passes fuel-tax bill


Steve Marcus

Prices for gasoline near $4.00 per gallon at this station on Blue Diamond Road Thursday, April 14, 2011.

Gas prices could increase statewide under a bill that received strong support today from lawmakers and business groups.

The gas tax increases would begin later this year in Clark County, if the Clark County Commission approves tethering various gas taxes to a certain measure of the inflation rate. So as the price of goods balloons, so, too, does the gas tax.

The bill would allow Clark County commissioners to take a vote before Oct. 1 whether to impose the tax plan. It would remain in effect until 2016, when voters would have to vote whether to continue it.

An amendment to Assembly Bill 413 would put the same taxing proposal to voters statewide in 2016.

If passed, all counties statewide would pay higher prices at the pump as gas taxes ratchet up with the inflation rate, which is called gas tax indexing.

It’s likely that the Clark County Commission will approve the tax this year, having already submitted to the Legislature a resolution supporting the bill.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada estimates the tax would cost the average driver an extra 3 cents per gallon, or $16 a year.

The Department of Motor Vehicles said Clark County motorists used 740.6 million gallons of gasoline last fiscal year. The increased tax would have brought the county an extra $22.2 million.

Supporters of the bill say it would help pay for highway infrastructure needs, create jobs, spur economic development and diversification, allow Nevada to leverage federal highway matching funds and allow local transportation agencies to bond against the gas tax revenue to pay for more transportation projects.

“We are excited that we have so much community and legislative support for this bill,” said Tina Quigley, general manager of the RTC of Southern Nevada. “We appreciate that an investment in transportation infrastructure is one of the best things we can do for economic development in our community.”

The bill began with the RTC of Southern Nevada as its main backer. But it could have statewide consequences, with all Nevadans considering the 2016 ballot measure.

Legislators, businesses and transportation groups say there’s a need for the tax because revenues from fuel taxes don’t buy what they used to.

Inflation has reduced the purchasing power of fixed cent-per-gallon fuel taxes, and the proliferation of hybrid, electric and fuel-efficient cars means that governments do not collect as much in fuel taxes as in the past.

That’s good for consumers but bad for the state of roads and bridges, which the state repairs with fuel tax dollars.

Washoe County got the same permission from the Legislature in 2009 and has been collecting taxes above the 9-cent county-level cap on gasoline taxes due to its inflation-adjusted tax.

That county’s index tax raised gas prices last year about 1.5 cents above what they otherwise would have been absent the tax, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The bill still needs to pass the Assembly and Senate.

It has bipartisan support in the Assembly, and Quigley said she’s heard of no opposition in the Senate.

Nobody testified against the bill in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.

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