Commissioners abandon gas tax |

Commissioners abandon gas tax

by Christy Chalmers

A proposal for a nickel-per-gallon gas tax hike has sputtered to a halt due to a lack of interest.

The Douglas County commission decided Thursday to shelve the issue after only four people volunteered for an advisory board that would have studied the viability of asking voters for the increase.

“To me, there’s just not enough interest in the community to even move forward,” said Commissioner Steve Weissinger, who led the effort to ax the plan. “I think we should just cut our losses and move on.”

The county commission in 1999 approved putting the question before voters, who repealed a similar tax in 1994, but didn’t formally endorse it. An extra 5-cent-per-gallon levy would raise an estimated $1 million per year that could be used for roads and maintenance.

The commissioners had planned to appoint an advisory committee to gauge interest in a gas tax ballot question, and possibly compose a question for either of the 2000 elections. But they said the four who applied – Gardnerville resident Jerry Bing, an accountant and former county commissioner, Dave Bolick, executive director of the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Fritz Rubins and Virgil Wiswell III, both retired Wellington residents – appeared opposed to a tax, and public comment has been minimal.

“If we can’t gather 10 to 30 signatures of people who want to be on this advisory board…I don’t think there’s an appetite to do it,” said Commissioner Bernie Curtis.

“I have yet to run into somebody that’s really in favor of this,” he noted later.

The commissioners have been careful to emphasize that a tax increase would have to be publicly supported, not government-driven. They said discussion of a gas tax hike could be revived if public interest increases.

The Business Council of Douglas County, a private group, plans to make roads, maintenance and costs the topic of its annual Critical Issues Conference, which is scheduled for May.

Even if that forum increases interest in a gas tax question, voters probably wouldn’t see it until 2002 because of election deadlines.