City Council tables TRPA gas tax hike |

City Council tables TRPA gas tax hike

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

The South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday temporarily passed on supporting a federal gas tax the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency wants to impose to pay for environmental improvements in the basin.

In a 4-0 vote, the council decided to postpone the matter to April 15. Councilman John Upton abstained because he worked as a consultant on the plan.

The city was the first local government among the lake’s surrounding counties to consider the idea, which would literally take an act of Congress to enact because it would involve changes to the U.S. Transportation Efficiency Act.

Washoe, Douglas, Placer and Carson City counties will hear the matter in the next few weeks.

The plan calls for the federal government to collect up to 2 cents a gallon more when motorists fill up at stations in these jurisdictions around the lake. In El Dorado County, the increase could go up to 4 cents a gallon by 2010.

If approved by Congress and the president it would split the money between environmental projects and transportation plans.

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“This is a bad time to be doing this,” Mayor Judy Brown said, acknowledging surging fuel prices accentuated by short supplies and problems in the Middle East.

Without totally objecting to the plan, council members told TRPA spokeswoman Pam Drum they need more details to make an informed decision that would affect so many people without voter approval.

Councilmen Tom Davis and Hal Cole requested a detailed list of what projects would be paid for by the specific tax hike and who would channel the money.

Drum mentioned the money may pay for vacuuming sediment basins and maintaining bike trails, but she pledged to come up with a more thorough list by next month.

The TRPA representative said the regulatory agency — assigned to increasing lake clarity — has estimated water quality projects would require an additional $2 million a year by 2020 to reach its goals.

Duane Wallace, the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce executive director, identified the plan as one revenue source that requires caution but consideration.

He suggested to the council that how they treat this could effect further joint efforts with TRPA.

“You can call it a good faith effort,” Wallace said.

On the other side of the coin, U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., expressed strong opposition to the plan.

“While I fully understand that the environmental protection of Lake Tahoe is a high priority, levying additional taxes on my constituents is not the answer,” he said.

TRPA Executive Director Juan Palma shared his sentiment in a statement.

“We’ve known all along that identifying a source of new revenue and building public support for it would be a difficult task, especially in these trying times,” he said.

Nevada Appeal staff writer Jill Keller contributed to this report. Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at