I was listening to the Committee presentations at the last ERC Board Meeting and the Tourism Committee was just full of excitement about the result of the GoNevada County web page, the advertising initiatives in the Bay Area, and the tourism conferences that the committee members have been attending. There was not much concrete data, just lots of good vibes.
The question running through my mind was who are the tourist that they are trying to attract, with the Committee’s 180 minute drive time strategy. The 180 minutes includes the Bay Area, all the way to Cupertino. It covers all the communities down the Central Valley to Merced, and up the Central Valley to just beyond Redding. How effective is this strategy going to be when fuel prices jump about 16 cents a gallon on 1 Jan 2015, and continues to increase over time.
Family incomes in the Central Valley counties are in the tank as unemployment is is above 10%. With more of the family income going for fuel and higher priced food, caused by the growing transportation and harvest costs, these families are not going to be coming to Nevada County for a weekend in any great numbers. The 16-cent or more fuel tax that will be imposed on these families and business this January is simply going to be too much, too fast, too soon.
That leaves the Bay Area folks, who have jobs and more expendable income who maybe willing to drive to Nevada County for a weekend or a day trip. On the other hand they may choose to go up US-50 to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, where they can buy some cheaper fuel for the return trip home. Nevada is not going to hike their gas prices to satisfy AB-32 Cap and Trade. While fuel will only cost a little more in Jan 2015, it will only be a few more dollars for the more wealthy families from the Bay Area, and it may not be a concern. However, the price will continue to climb and some will have second thoughts about Nevada County weekends. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office recently declared that the tax could exceed 50 cents per gallon by the year 2020.
During the Prop 23 Campaign to delay implementation of AB-32, local Prop 23 proponents ask the Board of Supervisors and City Councils to write letters in support of Prop 23 and they refused. Now there is a potential impact on the local economy, reducing sales tax revenue from declining tourism, while increasing the cost of fuel for public safety and fire districts. Less money coming in and more going out. Not very sustainable. AB-32 chickens are coming home to roost.