North Dakota lawmaker wants electric, hybrid vehicles fees

December 21, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota lawmaker wants to charge owners of electric and hybrid vehicles an annual fee to help offset lost motor fuel taxes that fund road improvements.

Grand Forks Republican Sen. Curt Kreun said drivers of electric and hybrid vehicles should pay their fair share toward road construction and repairs, just as drivers of gasoline-powered cars do. All vehicles contribute to wear and tear on the state’s roads, he said.

“If you drive on our roads, you got to pay for them,” said Kreun, whose bill was filed Friday ahead of next month’s legislative session. “It all boils down to fairness.”

North Dakota is among 30 states that don’t levy a fee for owners of electric vehicles to make up for the fact that they don’t use motor fuel, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eight states charge annual fees for drivers of hybrid vehicles, the group said.

Kreun’s proposed legislation would charge owners of electric vehicles $248 annually, the highest fee of any state that charges the fee. Hybrid vehicle owners would pay $71 a year, among the highest charged by states, NCSL data show.

The fees would be in addition to standard annual vehicle registration costs.

Kreun, who drives a full-size pickup, defended the high fees compared to other states that charge them, saying North Dakota’s wide-open spaces require more driving time than most other states.

Still, collecting fees from North Dakota drivers of non-combustion vehicles would raise only a negligible amount for road improvements at present.

State Transportation data show 1.1 million vehicles are registered in the state, including about 3,850 hybrids and just 141 electric vehicles.

North Dakota’s 23-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax, which is reserved mostly for road and bridge construction and repairs, raised $165.7 million in the last fiscal year, state data show. The state tax, which hasn’t changed since 2005, is in addition to the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon, which is passed back to states for highway funding.

Kevin Pula, an NCSL senior policy specialist, predicted there will be huge growth in electric and hybrid vehicles over time — as much as 40 percent of all vehicles by 2040.

“At this point, it’s an equity conversation rather than a revenue decision,” Pula said of the growing number of state’s imposing the extra fees. “In the long term, it will drive revenue.”

Though North Dakota does not, Pula said 22 states provide some sort of tax break or financial incentive for owning an electric and hybrid vehicles.

Kreun said while electric and hybrid cars are good for the environment, he dismissed the idea that additional fees on them would hurt their sales.

“In my opinion, there is climate change,” he said. “I have nothing against electric cars. But we have to fix potholes.”

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