The Liberal government's carbon tax is one of the defining environmental issues of the 2009 election campaign and a fight is now brewing over the money collected so far. The outcome could determine whether property taxes go up.

With TransLink facing a $450 million shortfall in 2009, mayors from Metro Vancouver are trying to convince provincial party leaders to give them a cut of the carbon tax revenues.

They say if the request is rejected they may be forced to hike taxes or put the brakes on improving transit programs.

"The property tax increase that was just done by TransLink board is 7.8 per cent, and now we're expected to add even more on top of that," Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said. "We will not support any further increases to property taxes."

The mayors want federal money from gas taxes as well as a piece of the B.C. carbon tax.

"What better use is there for the carbon tax than to fund public transit, buses?" Port Moody's mayor, Joe Trasolini, said.

His counterpart in Vancouver agrees, and says the whole transit system could be in trouble without the cash injection.

"It means that we don't see growth in transit and the region, in fact, it may see less transit around the region... and a cut back to services if we don't get more funding for transit," Mayor Gregor Robertson said.

The NDP has already said it will axe the gas tax if it is elected. The Liberals maintain the tax is not a revenue generator.

"Every single cent that is raised form the carbon levy is going back in tax reductions. So there is a personal income tax reduction on average about 37 or 38 per cent across the province to people last year," Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell said.

With a report by CTV British Columbia's Michele Brunoro.