A recent article in The R-C reported on the sorry state of county roads in Topaz and the efforts by residents there to get them fixed. The residents lamented the lack of funds for road repairs and seem to be under the impression that nothing can be done about that. There is actually a simple solution. The problem is that our county commissioners rejected it last year.
Nevada authorizes local governments to impose up to a 9 cents per gallon gasoline tax for road construction, maintenance and repair.
Most Nevada counties, including Washoe and Carson, impose the full 9 cents. Douglas does not. Our gas tax is only 4 cents per gallon.
Most of us do business here and in Carson City, sometimes Reno.
We all know that gasoline is priced more or less the same in all those places. That's because gasoline is a competitive commodity, readily available from many sources, with the price set by the local balance of supply and demand.
Let's look at what happens when you buy a gallon of gas for $3.50 here versus in Carson City. In Carson City, 9 cents of that purchase is sent to Carson City in the form of gas tax, where it is reserved by law for road improvement and maintenance.
In Douglas County only 4 cents is sent to the county as gas tax. Where does the rest go? Into the pockets of a few local gasoline retailers.
So we're already paying that extra 5 cents that could be used for our roads. But our elected officials have decided it's better for that money to go to the retailers instead.
Last year when this issue was before the county, the gasoline retailers mounted an aggressive, self-serving and disingenuous PR campaign designed to make it difficult for our officials to do the right thing. It worked. We were threatened with higher gasoline prices, closed stations, job losses, a devastated economy. Yet none of that has occurred in other locations with a 9¢ tax.
We were told that we'd find other solutions for our deteriorating roads. Of course little has happened. I'm often critical of the County, but not of its efficiency. It runs on a tight budget and there simply isn't any place to find the large sums needed for road maintenance without cutting other critical services.
The simple truth is that to repair our roads we need to raise the gas tax. It will cost the average citizen nothing, because we're already paying that tax, just not getting the benefit of it. Gasoline prices here will remain competitive with Carson and Reno, because that's how the local market works. And we all know it won't hurt the retailers. They'll do fine, just like those in Carson and Reno who already pay this tax.
And if for some reason raising the gas tax proves disastrous we can always lower it. Come on, commissioners, let's give it a try and fix our roads.