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Gas tax increase took courage by commissioners

Nye County's elected officials made the only sensible decision before them Tuesday when they unanimously approved a 5-cent gas tax increase, raising the county tax at the pump to 9 cents per gallon.

It will take effect Oct. 26.

Tuesday's vote by the county commissioners was 5-0, which I applaud because it is a politically difficult issue. At previous hearings, Commissioner Donna Cox had encouraged a lower tax increase. Anytime you vote to raise people's taxes, especially when many residents continue to struggle with jobs and housing, it is not an easy decision. But the fact is that the county's roads are in serious decline. Cox and the other commissioners realized the importance of continued maintenance so the roads don't further deteriorate.

There was no other alternative. The gas tax has sat at 4 cents per gallon for 30 years while the county infrastructure has continued to grow. Along with population growth, the county's roads have gone from 1,700 miles to 2,747 miles during the past decade.

The tax increase is not to build some new, magical road to nowhere or a government official's house, it is to address the crumbling infrastructure that is the county's roads. This past weekend I drove back from Reno following UNLV's triumphant recapturing of the Fremont Cannon from that university in Reno. Traveling through towns such as Gabbs and Tonopah brought home the need for more road dollars throughout the county.

Drive the back roads in Pahrump and Nye County and you will encounter less-than-ideal conditions. I would rather pay this money up front than a few hundred, if not thousands, to repair car damage from potholes.

The 9-cent gas tax is projected to generate $1.9 million annually, up from the estimated $838,000 that was forecast from the 4-cent gas tax. That funding doesn't just go to roads but also includes maintaining signage, traffic signals, plowing roads in winter and repairing flood damage every summer.

I believe that the number will be higher because more people are driving the roads and gas prices continue to drop. Many projections have gas in Nevada around $2 by year's end. I have to think that will bring more tourists at the county's gas stations filling up their SUVs and RVs, adding needed funding to the county's coffers.

I have heard from many residents who are concerned about how the new tax will be spent, worried much of the funding will go into county workers' pockets or wasteful projects and not to asphalt and truly-needed road work. We at the newspaper will stay vigilant to make sure that money goes where it is supposed to go. The county has a monthly road report before the commissioners, which is online and the funding will appear in the annual budgets publicly discussed and submitted to the state in May.

When this issue first was introduced in August, I pointed out a big share of the increased tax burden would be absorbed by tourists and out-of-towners, as 37.9 percent of all gallons sold in Nye County are along the U.S. Highway 95 corridor. Add in the number of gallons sold to visitors in Pahrump along Highway 160, and nonresidents would carry a big load of the increase.

That includes me.

I fill up my tank twice a week here in Pahrump driving between Henderson and the Times office five days a week.

I would like to believe the loud opposition to the increase are in the minority, and that the vast majority see the need for Tuesday's decision to raise the tax.

Roads won't pave themselves. Kudos to the commissioners on the united front.

Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times

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