Nevada fuel tax efforts: one dead, one on life support

| 5/29/2009

With only hours remaining in the regular session in Nevada it appears that truckers and others might be spared from any fuel tax increases being adopted by state lawmakers.

Senate lawmakers were gathered Friday, May 29, to address several issues. One issue could include a possible veto override attempt of a bill that called for increasing fuel taxes in Washoe County. Voters authorized lawmakers to pursue the increase during the 2008 election.

Gov. Jim Gibbons vetoed the bill – SB201 – May 21 citing his concern that voters might not have understood they were being asked to support a tax hike.

With the Legislature scheduled to adjourn for the year Monday, June 1, time is running out for lawmakers to act on issues that remain unresolved. Another issue of interest that appears to have met its demise called for charging truckers an extra 7 cents per gallon when fueling.

The Senate Taxation Committee voted earlier this month to attach a provision to AB235 to increase the state’s 27.75-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel to 34.75 cents.

With the exception of Washoe County, the bill also allowed every county throughout the state to ask voters whether to index the diesel tax, Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Motor Transport Association, told Land Line Now. Washoe County was not included in the provision because voters had already approved fuel indexing.

But the bill later was a casualty of a legislative deadline, effectively killing it for the year.

The demise of the diesel tax boost was welcome news for OOIDA. The Association issued a Call to Action on the bill to its Nevada members.

“Nevada truckers stood up for themselves. They were unwilling to sit back and allow this awful piece of legislation to pass without putting up a fight. Their tenacity played a part in making sure the bill ended up where it belonged – in a paper shredder,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

The future of SB201 is uncertain. It enables legislation for a ballot question approved by Washoe County voters in November.

In his veto statement, Gibbons said the ballot language was nonspecific. He said he is concerned voters might not have realized they were supporting a tax.

“Notably absent from the language of that advisory question was a clear and concise statement that the state legislation being sought would come in the form of a fuel tax increase,” Gibbons wrote. “Also notably absent is a clear and concise statement of the amount of the fuel tax increase being sought.”

The bill would allow gas and diesel taxes in Washoe County to be increased at rates equal to inflation of construction costs. Initially, 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.

Senate lawmakers approved SB201 in early May by a 20-1 margin. The House followed suit on a 34-5 vote. If lawmakers pursue an override, both chambers would need to maintain their two-thirds majority support for passage.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Nevada in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this report.

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