Bill seeks to impose a fee on electric car owners

December 2, 2015

Bill seeks to impose a fee on electric car owners 

FRANKFORT – Electric car owners could be a charged an annual fee to offset the gas tax those motorists don’t pay under prefiled legislation for the 2016 General Assembly.

“This is a bill whose time has come,” bill sponsor Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, said on Tuesday at the last meeting of the year for the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation. “It is a bill about fairness. It is a bill that is about being proactive. It is a bill that in time will help our challenged road fund.”

Known as BR 61, the legislation would require the owner of a plug-in electric vehicle to pay a $100 fee when initially registering the vehicle and upon renewal. He said the amount of the fee was derived from calculating the average amount a motorist in a gasoline-powered vehicle pays in gas taxes per year.

“The impetus behind this legislation is simple,” said Bowen, who is also a member of the committee. “If you are using our … roads out there, you ought to help pay for them. Currently, we have a situation where there is an exempt class – those folks who drive a vehicle powered by electricity or battery. They pay no road tax. They pay no fee. And that is not fair.”

Georgia, Idaho and Wyoming enacted legislation this year requiring new fees on certain hybrid and electric vehicles, according to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) that was shared with the committee. Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington adopted fees for electric vehicles during previous legislative sessions.

Georgia also issues an “alternative fuel license plate” to electric vehicles, which gives these vehicles the ability to drive in high occupancy toll, known as HOT lanes, regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle, according to NCSL. Hybrid vehicle owners who wish to pay the $200 fee to receive this plate and the benefit of travelling in the HOT lanes with no passenger restrictions may do so, but it is not required for a normal registration.

Committee Co-chair Rep. Hubert Collins, D-Wittensville, asked if the federal government was moving to tax electric vehicles.

Bowen said the legislation was an attempt at being proactive.

“This is acting because Washington hasn’t acted,” he said. “We shouldn’t wait on Washington to make decisions that are good for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A lot of decisions Washington makes have a negative effect on … Kentucky.”

After the committee was informed that Oregon has agreed to a 5,000-vehicle opt-in this year that allows drivers to pay a fee based on miles driven rather than gallons of fuel purchased, Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, asked Bowen if he researched replacing the gas tax with a fee based on miles driven. Bowen said “no,” adding that there is already a system in place to tax vehicles that use other alternative fuels such as propane.

Committee Co-chair Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, said he looks forward to the state Senate taking up the prefiled bill early in the upcoming session. He added that an amendment might be attached that would address falling gas tax receipts because of more fuel-efficient vehicles and a huge inventory of used cars.

Those fuel-efficient vehicles are attributed, in part, to projected declines in the amount of motor fuels taxes estimated to be collected in the future. The motor fuels taxes collected by Kentucky is expected to decrease $100.4 million, or 11.8 percent, from this past fiscal year to fiscal year 2016, according to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet estimates presented to the committee.

Harris said that projected decline is squeezing funding for transportation infrastructure – which relies heavily on gasoline taxes.