Can Gas Prices Go Up Even Higher?

By: Auburn Hutton
By: Auburn Hutton

A transportation task force is essentially asking legislators to go against the wishes of Governor Jim Gibbons.

In his state of the state address, he made it very clear that he did not support an increase in the gas tax to help fund future highway projects, but some members of the task force think there may be no other solution.

Proposed highway projects in Reno and parts of Southern Nevada will cost around $3.8 billion dollars more than the state can afford. Reno's big projects include plans to widen I-80 from Robb to Vista, widen 395 from the Spaghetti bowl to Stead, and make some much needed improvements to the Pyramid Highway. One way to fund it? Raise the gas tax.

Carol Vilardo is the President of the Nevada Taxpayer's Association and a member of the transportation task force. "I don't think the governor believes these projects aren't necessary. His concern is the impact, given the price of fuel."

Governor Gibbons has said he won't add to the burden of already high gas prices. Task force members are racking their brains trying to figure out just how else to fund these projects.

"We talked about gaming tax, we talked about a room tax, we talked about gas tax," said Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Motor Transport Association and a task force member.

They also considered things like adding toll roads to the busy highway system, a plan Department of Transportation officials say is very unlikely. Other proposals include doubling the price of a driver's license and increasing sales tax on vehicles, all plans that may or may not provide enough revenue to make up for the deficit.

Some task force members say lawmakers have a lot riding on their decision of how to fund the projects, including their own popularity.

"The question now becomes what is politically palatable, not what makes good policy or anything else, but what is going to be politically palatable to the legislators and the governor," said Vilardo.

In order to pass a tax in Nevada, there has to be a two-thirds vote. Even if the governor vetoes it, the bill would go right back to the legislators. If they all vote the same way again, the gas tax will go into effect.

Lawmakers have yet to determine whether or not they'll actually vote on gas tax legislation during this session,but one thing is certain, the future of Nevada drivers is riding on it.

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