As the average fuel economy of US vehicles increases, gas tax receipts around the country are declining, leaving less funding available for road construction and maintenance. In an effort to make up the shortfall, Wisconsin could join five other states in imposing a fee on fuel-efficient vehicles.
The $50 annual charge, which would apply to both EVs and hybrids, is designed “to ensure these owners continue to pay their fair share of the operating costs of our infrastructure,” said Wisconsin DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb. The fee is part of a two-year package of tax increases proposed by the Wisconsin DOT, which will be considered by Governor Scott Walker, then sent to the state legislature next year.
Washington, Colorado, Nebraska, Virginia and North Carolina already charge EV drivers special fees, but Wisconsin’s would be the first to levy a fee on hybrids.
Some see a political motivation for the new fee. “It’s a little bit like charging an ex-smoker for not smoking,” said Steve Hiniker of the environmental group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. “Transportation is the only department that has been getting funding increases for the past four years. That speaks to the power of the road builders, because they want to build more projects.”
Road builders gave nearly $731,000 in campaign contributions to Governor Scott Walker, and nearly $300,000 to state legislators, over the past 3 years, according to the Star Tribune.
EV drivers want to pay their fair share to keep roads and bridges in good repair, said Jay Friedland, Director of Plug-In America, but the fairest solution would be a fee based on vehicle miles traveled, rather than a flat fee or a fuel tax. Friedland believes that states should not impose fees until they have 100,000 EVs on the road (only California has so far reached this milestone). Until EV adoption reaches that point, administering a fee may cost more than it generates in revenue.