Politics

A state senator wants to create a yearly tax on electric car owners in Kentucky, saying it’s unfair that owners of conventional gas-powered cars have to pay fuel taxes but electric car owners don’t.

“If you’re using our highways, if you’re using our roads out there, you ought to help pay for them,” said state Sen. Joe Bowen, an Owensboro Republican, during a committee hearing earlier this month.

Bowen said his proposed tax would be $100 and apply only to owners of plug-in electric vehicles.

“Currently, you have a situation where there’s an exempt class, and that is those folks who drive a vehicle that is powered by electricity or batteries. They pay no road tax, they pay no fee,” he said.

The fuel tax is the main funding source for the state highway fund, which is used to build and maintain Kentucky’s roads and bridges.

As motor vehicles become more fuel efficient and as gas gets cheaper, the state gets less money from the fuel tax. According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the state expects to collect $100.4 million less in the 2016 fiscal year than in 2015.

Stuart Ungar, the president of EVolve KY, a group of electric car enthusiasts, said the proposed legislation would discourage people from buying electric cars.

“There aren’t that many electric cars on the road. It’s not there yet. It just seems like this is one thing that’s a real negative, and it doesn’t have to be,” Ungar said.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 10 states collect special fees from electric vehicle owners, though the exact mechanism varies.

Washington state has a $100 annual fee for electric cars. Oregon allows drivers to pay a fee based on how many miles they drive.

Ungar said if the electric car fee comes to fruition, it won’t be a major source of revenue for the road fund.

“There are so few electric cars on the road, they’re not going to bring in any substantial amount of money doing this at this point,” he said.

Bowen said the tax would give Kentucky the opportunity to “be ahead of the curve.”

“This is just an attempt at being proactive,” he said.

The 2016 legislative session starts on Jan. 5.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.