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Raise Taxes…or End Free Rides for Truckers in Nevada?

Last summer “they” were saying that Nevada’s overspending deficit would be more than $3 billion. Then we discovered they were apple-and-oranging the figures and the general fund overspending deficit was actually around $1.1 billion dollars. Still, they say the budget can’t be balanced without tax hikes.

But RalstonFlash tweeted Monday night that Pete Ernaut – confidante to Gov. Brian Sandoval – said on Face to Face with Jon Ralston that “there is $500-$600 million in duplicative, pet projects 2 be cut in budget.”

So the much bally-hooed $3 billion overspending deficit in the general fund that everyone was throwing around with reckless abandon last summer is now actually down to only around $500 million? And they still say we can’t balance the budget without tax hikes?

They’re wrong. And it reminds me of the old saying about those who say something can’t be done getting out of the way of those doing it.

Which brings me to another point Mr. Ernaut made on Face to Face Monday night; that increasing revenue is not necessarily the same thing as raising taxes. And he’s absolutely correct. Let me give you an example.

Big-rig truckers are already required to pay fees for the privilege of driving through Nevada and using our highways. There are also substantial penalties for doing so with cargo loads in excess of that which is allowable and paid for. That’s the main purpose of those official “weigh stations” you find at various state borders when driving around the country.

But not in Nevada.

According to Ed Wilson at the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), although Nevada has brick-and-mortar facilities at ports of entry near Nevada’s borders, they are not permanently manned. Yes, the Nevada Highway Patrol does set up random inspections on occasion, but nowhere near 24/7.

As such, truckers in communication with each other are often pretty much free to drive through Nevada unmolested and unchecked via I-80 and I-15 – and to a lesser extent, in-state on highway 95 between Las Vegas and the Reno area.

Odds are the major trucking firms are complying with Nevada’s existing registration, weight and fee requirements. But many independent truckers are probably taking their chances and evading the fees and abusing the privilege while tearing up our asphalt, often with overweight trailers.

Last April, Paul Enos, lobbyist for the Nevada Motor Transport Association, declared in a Las Vegas Sun interview that because of Nevada’s projected overspending deficit, “Absolutely there will be a tax increase in the future.”

Hmm. Perhaps the minimal cost to man six port-of-entry weigh stations in Nevada would result in a net increase in tax revenue (as well as road safety) without the tax hike that Mr. Enos believes to be inevitable.

And perhaps it’s time to seriously consider implementing Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) in Nevada.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, CVISN would provide Nevada with automatic electronic screening of trucks coming into our state and allow “safe and legal operators to bypass weigh stations” while assuring “safety checks, credentials checks, and state-to-state fee processing.”

Better safety. Higher revenue. Less inconvenience. No new taxes. What’s not to love? It’s worth a shot, isn’t it? I mean, why should others have their taxes raised just because some are evading the taxes they already owe, right?

So let it be written; so let it be done.