ELKO – Elko County Commissioners have agreed to support state Senate Bill 48, which would allow counties to impose a tax of up to 5 cents per gallon on diesel fuel for road construction and maintenance.
Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution at their Feb. 6 meeting “expressing our strong support for Senate Bill 48, introduced in the 2019 Nevada Legislature.” The Nevada Association of Counties introduced the bill specifically for road work.
“This came up at an earlier meeting, and I was questioning whether we could amend it to use the tax for operations instead of building roads,” Elko County Commission Chairman Rex Steninger said, explaining that after he learned amending the bill wasn’t feasible, he removed his objections.
He said he was initially concerned that with the infrastructure sales tax, the county might not need more money for roads. Steninger later suggested maybe a portion of the infrastructure revenues could be shifted to other uses, if SB48 passes.
The county approved a quarter-percent sales tax increase in 2015 for road and fire district infrastructure.
“What we are doing now is just supporting the proposition to send it to the legislature to pass the bill. Then we get to decide if it has what we want. I support it,” Vice Chairman Demar Dahl said.
According to SB48, county commissioners in all the counties except Clark and Washoe can impose a tax on diesel fuel sold in their counties up to 5 cents per gallon.
The resolution states that currently Nevada’s rural counties can enact a 5-cent gasoline tax, but the rural counties don’t have an “an equivalent mechanism to collect tax revenue on diesel fuel” in contrast to the urban counties.
Commissioner Cliff Eklund said any decision by the county to enact the tax will require a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority.
The bill also states the tax hike could be approved by a majority of registered voters if submitted for ballot action.
The measure includes a provision for highway truck parking projects, requiring the Nevada Department of Taxation to set up a trust account for counties selling more than 10 million gallons of diesel fuel a year. The bill then allows a portion of the account to go to the Nevada Department of Transportation to construct, maintain or repair highway truck parking spots.
Eklund said that with all the truck stops, more than 10 million gallons of diesel probably are sold in a year in Elko County.
The adopted resolution states that counties are responsible for 65 percent of the roads in the state, and a well-maintained system is “critical to economic development, public safety and quality of life for our communities.”