It began with Washington last year and was popularized this year in Virginia's transportation funding plan: charging a separate, fixed (as opposed to variable), registration fee for electric vehicles (EV) only - though in Virginia it's applied to hybrid cars as well.
In New Jersey, state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic City) had initially proposed charging a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) or mileage fee for all vehicles, thus not penalizing those who drive electric vehicles. In fact, his bill would have "exempted passenger vehicles from motor fuels tax". But that didn't fly, reports Antony Ingram.
The scheme did have opposition from others, though. Sen. Joe Pennaccio said it would akin to "letting the proverbial camel's nose in the tent. Once you start charging people by the mile... it would be a lot easier to keep rising those costs. (From Asbury Park Press)
Paul Munshine, columnist of The Star Ledger, attacked it as "the worst bill ever".
"One problem: Gas usage is not going down. The federal Energy Information Administration predicts gas usage will continue at current levels at least until 2035 (go to Page 7 of this report"), he writes. [Readers may be confused what the "EIA’s Long-Term Biofuels Outlook" has to do with gasoline consumption].
The Times of Trenton editorial board also attacked the bill, but from a more traditional perspective. Taking the same approach as the USA Today editors did in a 'gas tax debate' posted here, they wrote that "the discussion in New Jersey should focus on whether to raise the state’s gas tax, which is the third-lowest in the nation." [See Tax Foundation gas chart - NJ ranks #48. However, come July, Wyoming's gas tax will increase 10-cents, making NJ's 10.5-cent gasoline excise tax trail only Alaska'a].
Consequently, Whelan dropped the mileage fee that would have been applied to all vehicles for a targeted $50 EV registration fee. Ingram looks at the bright side: "(I)t's around half the amount they'd be charged if they drove 12,000 miles under the previous scheme," he notes.
However, The Times of Trenton would have none of that.
This is backwards thinking. The environmental benefits of fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles are obvious. Drivers should be encouraged to pursue those options, rather than be discouraged by fees targeting alternative fuel vehicles.
Ingram sums it up nicely.
Until states charging more for gasoline tax (political suicide, but the root of the problem), or finding other ways to drum up revenue for roads and maintenance, fees for electric cars are here to stay.
Ingram and his colleagues write about recent efforts in Arizona (though on a per-mile basis), Oregon, Michigan, and Kansas (on the electricity used) to implement electric vehicle fees to ensure they contribute toward their state's transportation funding programs.
As for NJ increasing its 10.5-cent gas tax, last raised over two decades ago, fuhgeddaboudit, write staff writers for NorthJersey.com.