Process in holding pattern for EIP tax |

Process in holding pattern for EIP tax

With public-opinion obstacles to steer around, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is slowing development toward new fees to pay for its $900 million Environmental Improvement Program.

Rather than issuing a “request for proposal” for Phase 2 of the Alternative Revenue Source Study, the agency with the help of business representatives, plans to develop a less structured “request for qualifications.”

The RFP was originally planned to solicit companies to take a closer look at several of 20 possible revenue sources identified in Phase 1 of the study. The proposal would have established research parameters and set a price.

The chambers of commerce and visitors authorities around the lake sponsored public meetings and surveys to narrow the scope of the study to a few possible sources.

Those meetings also uncovered smoldering hostilities toward the regional environmental organization, which included the validity of the Phase 1 study.

In light of the frustration expressed by the public that their concerns were not being addressed, “the TRPA needs to proceed slowly and more cautiously,” said Duane Wallace, the executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce. “We’re not happy with the first study. It’s an expensive list of ways to tax.”

“The concerns represented from the chamber and visitors bureaus is highly constructive feedback,” said TRPA spokeswoman Pam Drum. “We obviously have a lot to work to do. We’re conducting stepped up public information campaign as we proceed with the request for qualifications. Those two programs can move forward concurrently.

“We’ll be providing additional opportunity for public input and public comment on the process.”

“The chamber feels the request for qualifications is the best way to go,” Wallace said. “What we’re looking for is companies that have the ability to do what we want done.

The new proposal, the RFQ, states what the agency wants to find out from the study. Companies then present detailed plans on how to do that and what it will cost.

Drum said that representatives of the business organizations that helped fund the Phase 1 study will be involved in developing the RFQ.

“The chamber feels the request for qualifications is the best way to go,” Wallace said. “What we’re looking for is companies that have the ability to do what we want done.

“We’re not happy with the first study. It’s an expensive list of ways to tax.”

What the business representatives want to see now is the development of an economic model for the Tahoe Basin during the Phase 2 study. The concept was proposed by researcher Carl Ribaudo, president of Strategic Marketing Group, during chamber-sponsored forum discussions.

“We feel a model is essential so we can evaluate policy,” Ribaudo said. “Not just on environmental improvement programs, but for a variety of policy issues that periodically come up at TRPA.”

A model shows the interrelationships that make up a system, whether environmental or economic, and how those systems are impacted given some new circumstance.

“Our goal is to develop appropriate analysis tools so we can get answers. Combined with a environmental models, it would really help our community in the long run,” Ribaudo said.

The chambers also support the development of an economic model.

“Just as environmental projects have to be weighed against environmental thresholds, any new fees to be raised should be justified to our economic ability,” Wallace said.

Just what an economic model would cost is unknown. Ribaudo, who stated he would not be the one to develop it, felt it could be developed in stages. A basic model could be created in six to nine months, he said. More complex aspects such as socioeconomic factors could be added later.

“We have a chance to do something that’s never been done,” Ribaudo said. “To make a difference. We need to seize the opportunity and develop the right tools to aid us in making the best decisions that we can make.”

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