Wisconsin DOT Proposes Annual Fee on Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

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Wisconsin may join five other states that charge the owners of electric and hybrid cars fees to make up for lost revenue in gasoline taxes, if a budget proposal submitted by the Department of Transportation in November passes next year.

But advocates of green cars “feel these fees do more to target certain drivers than they do to raise money to replace increasingly shrinking gas-tax revenues,” Stephen Edelstein wrote for Green Car Reports on Dec. 2.

The fee would be $50, charged annually. This would ensure payment by both new and used car owners (the ratio of used to new car purchases in the U.S. is 3.3 to 1).

Revenue from the measure would total about $4 million per year, according to the StarTribune, and accounts for only a fraction of the $751 million in increased taxes and fees suggested by the DOT.

The proposal also includes an additional fee on sales of all new cars, high-efficiency or not. This would come out to be $800 on a $32,00 vehicle.

Infrastructure Needs

The department cites deteriorating infrastructure as a justification for the proposed fee, pointing out that drivers of highly efficient cars inflict just as much wear and tear on the road as drivers of gasoline-powered vehicles.

DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb said that his department just want to sees electric and hybrid car drivers pay their “fair share.”

Supporters of the proposal have praised it for its potential to reduce reliance on bond debt while meeting the needs of all drivers. “This proposal recognizes the fact that Wisconsin’s existing transportation financing sources will not meet the long-term needs of our transportation network,” said Transportation Investment Coalition Executive Director John Gard. The coalition is made up of road builders, labor unions and “others that support spending more on transportation,” according to the StarTribune.

Spending Problems

But opponents say that the measure amounts to punishing drivers for making environmentally responsible choices instead of holding the DOT responsible for budgetary problems.

“It seems like a very divertive tactic trying to blame these few hybrid and electric vehicle owners for the DOT’s transportation problem, when really the problem is their spending,” Shahla Werner, director of Sierra Club Wisconsin, told the Badger Herald Dec. 1.

The proposal may also be a tough sell in the newly elected and conservative Wisconsin Legislature.

“For Republicans who ran on cutting taxes, and who are on the record opposing any gas tax increase, the DOT request will be a major speed bump to fast passage of the budget,” noted AP reporter Scott Bauer.

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