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Gas Taxes on the Way Up

The Mirror of Pahrump, Nevada

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A five cent increase to the county's motor vehicle fuel tax was unanimously approved by the Nye County Commission on Tuesday, October 6, bringing the total to be paid by patrons buying gas in Nye to nine cents per gallon. This is the highest gas tax increase allowed by Nevada law without a formal vote of the people. The move comes more than eight months after the item was introduced by commissioner Dan Schinhofen, who brought it forth in his capacity as a member of the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). Following months of debate at the RTC level and again at the commission level, commissioners have granted the tax hike their stamp of approval.

This is not the first instance in which an inflated gas tax has been sought but every past attempt has been unsuccessful. As previously reported in The Mirror, Schinhofen stated he had lobbied for a three cent increase in 2012 when a question had been placed on a general election ballot. That question garnered less than 25 percent assenting votes. However, this has not stopped Schinhofen from pursuing what he has deemed a very much needed spike in the amount of funding the road department operates on.

Apparently public sentiment has shifted as several commissioners reported they had received mostly positive feedback regarding the increase. Residents from across the county also went before the commission that Tuesday to affirm their support for the increase, with each remarking that a dire need for more funding does indeed exist. As put by Pahrump resident Bill Stremmel, "Something for nothing is not the rule of this world." Only a few dissenting voices were raised including outspoken Pahrump resident Louie DeCanio who told the commission, "Look to cut fat," rather than increasing taxes.

The fuel tax increase was originally proposed at three cents but after the item made its way through the RTC and onto the Nye County Commission, it was to be considered for between three and five cents. Schinhofen started the discussion by offering background on the item.

"Someone said we can't just raise taxes whenever we want," Schinhofen began. "This was last raised in 1982 I believe. It says '85 but it was about 1982 when it was taken to the four cents." He stated that in 1983 there were 718 miles of roads where there are now over 2,700 miles of road stretching across the county. Schinhofen also clarified that the funding from the tax hike will not go toward salaries or labor. He assured that the tax is only to be used for materials along with a maximum of 10 percent for engineering purposes. He then made a motion for approval of a five cent increase to the gax tax rate.

Commission chair Lorinda Wichman along with commissioners Frank Carbone and Butch Borasky each expressed their support for the increase with commissioner Donna Cox the only one to convey any hesitation. She asked Nye County Manager Pam Webster to explain how the funds would be divvied up, questioning whether there would be a certain rate at which the funds could be used in the separate towns. Webster responded that the RTC decides where the funds will go. "So it could be going to a certain town and not others?" Cox asked. Wichman jumped in to state that the funds are used as needed. "The RTC makes the determination based on road condition and complaints and driving those roads themselves," Wichman said. Carbone stated that the road department was already considering plans for what the extra funds would be used for first. Cox said she was feeling 50-50 on the situation but when it came to the vote, she assented along with the other four commissioners.

Supplementing the county fuel tax in regards to an increase in electric cars and fuel efficiency was also a concern raised during the discussion. Carbone remarked that the topic was likely not dead. "Hang on guys, there's probably more cOming," he said.

The new nine cent per gallon fuel tax will officially go into effect on Monday, October 26. All funds collected by this tax are placed in the RTC general fund for disbursement. It was also noted that the county does not receive any of the taxes originating from the sale of diesel fuel.

The RTC hosts public meetings to discuss its actions once per month and dates can be found at the county website www.nyecounty.net.

Contact author Robin Hebrock by emailing mirror.rhebrock@gmail.com



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Original Publication Date: October 8, 2015



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