Clark County gas tax hike gets bipartisan support in Assembly committee

CARSON CITY — Republicans and Democrats gave support Thursday for a bill that could lead to gasoline tax increases in Clark County next year and many other counties after 2016.

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, brought an amended version of Assembly Bill 413 to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

The bill would allow the Clark County Commission, with two-thirds of the votes of its members, to “index” or increase gas taxes by the rate of inflation in the highway construction industry each year between 2014 and 2016.

The funds produced by the increase would go to the Regional Transportation Commission, which wants to issue bonds to carry out $800 million in highway projects.

Hardy said gas taxes likely would increase by about 3 cents per gallon a year. The total rate now is about 52 cents per gallon.

But then in the 2016 election, voters throughout the state would decide whether to impose or continue to impose the higher rates in their counties.

Hardy said Nevada needs to catch up with highway construction and repairs if it is to induce more companies to locate in the state.

“This will create jobs,” Kirkpatrick added, noting that Washoe County has been able to index gas taxes to raise additional funds for highway projects since 2009. Gas taxes there are about 10 cents higher per gallon than in Clark County.

Hardy said the increase, if approved, would add about $30 a year in higher gas taxes per household.

A long list of construction, union and economic officials testified in favor of the bill, while no one expressed opposition.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has been on record as opposing any new taxes, although he has said he would sign a bill to increase the sales tax rate in Clark County to hire additional police. That increase, however, was backed by voters in the 2004 election.

Hardy noted that many rural counties have not increased their local gas tax rates to the amount permitted under current law.

“The counties want us to take the blow, while the counties won’t implement it themselves,” he said.

Under the bill, if the tax issues pass in 2016, then there would be another statewide vote in 2026 to determine if the higher taxes should continue.

Nevada has not had a statewide increase in gas taxes since 1992.

The bill is not subject to the Friday deadline to pass bills out of a second house of the Legislature.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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