Pursuit underway at the Nevada statehouse would revise a vehicle fee and tax revenue rule in place for the past 80 years.
The Nevada Constitution mandates that any license fee, registration fee, or excise tax on gas or diesel be used solely for the construction, maintenance and repair of public highways.
The Legislature’s Interim Committee on Energy has voted to move forward a plan that would open the door to diverting from roads a portion of vehicle taxes and fees. Specifically, the group authorized continued pursuit of a plan to amend the constitution to allow affected revenue to be applied for all “transportation infrastructure.”
The directors of multiple state agencies including the DOT and Department of Motor Vehicles submitted a letter to the committee on sustainable transportation funding.
“The long-term solution should, to the greatest extent possible, address the needs of all transportation mode users, including bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users,” the letter said, “as well as promote social and user equity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and establish sustainability of the fund.”
Committee passage of the proposal clears the way for a bill draft request to be written for possible consideration by the Legislature. State lawmakers would be required to approve the change during the 2021 and 2023 regular sessions.
Voters would get the final say on the proposed amendment to the state’s constitution during the 2024 election.
Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, R-Reno, told the committee more money is needed before it gets diverted for pedestrian projects and transit.
“Unless we are able to expand the pie, we are further dividing the pie, which would have the net effect of taking some funds away from bridges and public highways,” Tolles said.
Nevada Department of Transportation Director Kristina Swallow agreed with the concern. She pointed out that the state has a more than $530 million annual shortfall in available transportation funds.
The agency said additional funding for transportation is necessary. The meeting was recorded.
The committee also recommended drafting a bill to require the Nevada DOT to establish a working group on transportation infrastructure.
The working group would be responsible for studying the state’s future of transportation, including additional funding.
Specifically, the group would focus on issues that include the sustainability of the state’s highway fund. An analysis of the Utah road-use charge program would be included.
“We’ve got to come up with other revenue sources,” said committee Chair Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-Las Vegas.
The group also would take into account the needs of all transportation mode users. Focus would include bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users.
Additionally, the group would pursue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The state DOT would be responsible for submitting reports to the 2021 and 2023 Nevada Legislature concerning the activities, conclusions, and recommendations of the working group.
Voters would make a final decision on the proposal in 2024. LL