Republicans in the General Assembly have proposed fees on hybrid and electric cars. Twitter quickly jumped on the proposal as being anti-environment by discouraging people from buying more fuel efficient vehicles. That’s a bad take. The measure is designed to offset declining revenue from gas taxes due to more fuel efficient vehicles.
North Carolina relies on gas taxes to build and maintain its roads. With more fuel efficient cars and trucks, that revenue has been declining for years. It’s not just a problem here; states across the country have the same problem. The measure introduced in the legislature is meant to help recoup some of that loss from the people who benefit from good roads.
It’s also considerably more progressive than raising the gas tax to make up for the loss in revenue. The people buying hybrid and electric cars are much better off than people buying used gas guzzlers. Asking them to pay a little more is far better than raising the gas tax on the family that buys a used 15 mile per gallon pickup that doubles as a work truck and family vehicle.
Concerns about the amount of the fees are legitimate. The ones introduced would make North Carolina’s fees higher than any of the nine states that have introduced them, but the intent should not be misconstrued as a measure designed to discourage people from buying more energy efficient vehicles. The point is to bring parity so people who buy hybrid and electric vehicles pay in taxes what the people who can’t afford them pay.
We’re going to see more disputes like this one as we transition to an economy less dependent on fossil fuels. We need to reach compromises that encourage people to adapt while not penalizing those who can’t afford the change. Let’s hope they work out an agreement so the tax burden is spread more evenly and funding for our roads is more progressive than regressive.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >