Pennsylvania finds itself in a tricky position: Fees collected from the state’s gas tax are lower than previous years with trends pointing downward. In response, the state is eying possible legislation that would add a fee for hybrid or electric vehicles to offset the losses.
Is that fair to consumers who have, in some cases, already spent additional money on the front end to purchase an electric or hybrid car to save money over the life of the vehicle?
It may not be, but it seems like the fairest way to fill in any possible budget gaps and a better option than taxing drivers based on the mileage they drive. The proposed $150 fee would be less than the estimated $275 motorists pay in gas taxes in Pennsylvania now and in the middle of what two neighboring states already pay.
The state’s Department of Revenue reports the Motor License Fund – which includes gas tax and revenue from license renewals and fees – ended 2018-19 almost $58 million below projections. The trend is expected to continue as more people switch to more fuel efficient vehicles.
So a state lawmaker — state Rep. Mike Carroll, a Democrat from Luzerne County — is pitching House Bill 1392, that would add the $150 to hybrid owners. It would make Pennsylvania the 22nd state with fees for electric vehicles to compensate for the fact that the vehicle owners don’t pay gas tax at the pump, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Virginia and West Virginia are Pennsylvania’s only neighbors with electric vehicle fees. In Virginia, motorists pay a $64 electric vehicle fee. In West Virginia, the electric vehicle fee is $200 for electric vehicles and $100 for hybrids.
The legislation breezed through the transportation committee — 21-2 on a bipartisan vote. Carroll said opponents don’t want to see the fee deter consumers from buying electric vehicles.
“It’s punishing people and families who are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and drive some of the most efficient and fun cars out there,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.
While it is difficult to disagree with that statement, it seems more reasonable than putting a meter on every vehicle in the state and charging drivers by the mile.
The proposal and dwindling revenue from the gas tax also serve as a reminder of how much money from the tax is being funneled away from road and bridge construction to fund the state police. If lawmakers can find a way to keep that money for infrastructure it would eliminate the need for additional fees for drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.