Tom Warne Report, 4 February 2012
TOPEKA, Kan. – Drivers of electric cars in Kansas are taking advantage of using less gas, but state lawmakers are concerned about how the state will pay for road and bridge projects if more drivers turn to the vehicles and no longer pay gasoline taxes. Rep. Tom Sloan is proposing the state impose a fee on the power used by electric and hybrid cars when owners charge them at home or at public charging stations. Sloan said the state should begin imposing such a fee before the state’s current few electric vehicle owners turn into a few thousand.
“Whether it’s 24 Volt owners in Kansas or 24,000, should they be paying to use the roads on which they drive?” Sloan asked the committee. “If not now, when?”
General Motors Co. opposed the bill, saying such a tax could hurt electric car sales in the state before they really catch on, as there are currently only two dozen Chevrolet Volts are registered in the state. Some legislators also worried that car owners would be forced to spend hundreds of dollars installing meters in their homes.
Under Sloan’s bill, on which no action was taken during a House Energy and Utilities Committee hearing, consumers who charge their electric or hybrid vehicle at home would be required to have a separate meter to monitor how much electricity they use. The state Department of Transportation would set the fee rate so it would match the state’s 24-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and 26-cent diesel tax.
Is this a perfect solution? Probably not. But it does represent a recognition of two realities: all vehicles impact our transportation system and everyone should pay something for that impact. I think this effort begins a debate that will go on for some time as elected officials and transportation officials seek ways to address the growing number of vehicles that don’t primarily use fossil fuel. Every initiative like this needs to start somewhere. TW