Charged EVs | Florida’s proposed EV tax raises questions of fairness and corporate influence

Florida is set to join the 26 states that impose a special yearly tax on EVs. Republican State Senator Jeff Brandes has introduced SB 1346, which would create a new annual fee for plug-in vehicle owners (in addition to the yearly registration fee paid on all vehicles). If this bill becomes law, every electric car will immediately be subject to a fee of $235 per year, rising to $250 in 2025. Vehicles weighing under 1,000 pounds (which would seem to mean motorcycles and some NEVs) will pay $135 (rising to $150 in 2025), and PHEVs will pay $35 ($50 in 2025).

The anti-EV backlash is not coming solely from the right side of the aisle. A companion bill in the Florida House (HB 1221) is co-sponsored by Representatives Emily Slosberg (D) and Jackie Toledo (R).

A separate set of bills would provide for 50% of revenue
from the new tax to be invested in public charging infrastructure, an apparent attempt
to blunt opposition to the bill from pro-EV groups. The other 50% would go to
the State Transportation Trust Fund, which is used to fund road maintenance and
construction in the state.

While investment in EVSE is a good thing, remember that
these are two separate bills – lawmakers could choose to impose the new tax
without approving the EVSE investment. It’s a clever political ploy – under the
threat of having a tax and no EVSE investment, many who would otherwise oppose
the measure may feel forced to support the tax+investment combo as the lesser
of two evils.

In other states, lawmakers have justified taxes on EV ownership by pointing out that EVs pay no gasoline taxes, and thus don’t help to fund road maintenance (they do pay taxes on electricity, as well as state excise and sales taxes).

A recent article by CalMatters, and another from the Sierra Club, argue that this line of reasoning is specious, to say the least. The root cause of declining fuel tax revenues is the fact that the federal fuel tax and most state fuel taxes do not rise with inflation, while maintenance costs do.

According to CalMatters, EVs currently account for only about 0.5% of vehicles in the US, whereas over the past 20 years, the country has added 6% more lane miles to maintain and increased the efficiency of the vehicle fleet by 14%, while the purchasing power of fuel-tax revenue has fallen by over 30%. However you do the math, the figures make it clear that EVs can’t be responsible for more than a tiny fraction of the funding gap at the federal level.

CalMatters says another cause of revenue shortfalls is “a misplaced priority on highway expansion.” This is emphatically the case in Florida, where the legislature just approved the construction of three new toll roads that will open up vast areas of former wilderness to development.

Comparing the amounts of some current EV taxes to those of fuel taxes reveals another hint that these fees are motivated by something other than a desire to make EV owners pay their fair share of road maintenance costs. A recent analysis by Consumer Reports found that, of the 26 states that currently impose EV fees, 11 charge more than the amount paid in gas taxes by owners of comparable legacy vehicles, and 3 charge more than double the amount.

More punitive EV taxes are on the way. According to CU, 12
states are considering proposals for new taxes, and 10 of these would impose
fees greater than what an average driver would pay in gas taxes. Seven would gradually
increase the fees to double that amount.

Two more questions worth asking: what industry groups are supporting Florida’s proposed tax, and how much money have they been investing in Tallahassee? As a recent article in Politico reports, groups backed by oil industry giants, including the American Petroleum Institute and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, have spent millions around the country to lobby lawmakers and regulatory agencies against various pro-EV measures.

Why are politicians rushing to tax EVs? Simple – they’re
following the example of Ronald Reagan, who said, “If you want more of
something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.”

Contact information for Florida state legislators is available on the State of Florida web site, and the Florida House actually offers a list of handy tips to help craft effective appeals to your representatives in Tallahassee.

Sources: Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Electrek, CalMatters, Consumer Reports, Sierra Club

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