Two legislators want to penalize hybrid and electric vehicle owners with a special $200-per-year excise tax for not burning enough gasoline and paying enough gas taxes to fund highway repair. Leading the charge are Rep. Andrew Maclean, D-Gorham, proposing LD 1149, and Sen. Ronald Collins, R-Wells, LD 1226.
This ignores economics 101: tax things that are bad and provide incentives for things that are good. Charging electric and hybrid vehicle owners for not burning enough gasoline (full disclosure, I proudly drive a 2013 Ford Focus that is 100 percent electric) is like charging non-smokers a fee because they’re dodging cigarette taxes. Burning less gasoline means cleaner air, less asthma, less cancer and more American energy independence.
Road maintenance should be funded by bad things, like burning fossil fuel or vehicle wear on roads. Vehicle wear can be taxed by raising tolls or taxing vehicles based on weight, since weight causes the most damage to roads. This proposed tax would make a 2003 prius owner pay more state excise tax for road maintenance than a fully loaded 24,000-pound dump truck. Maine’s 400 electric vehicles paying $200 per year would generate $80,000 towards our $159 million road maintenance shortfall – a drop in the ocean. Simply raising the gas tax by 14 cents (instead of the proposed seven) and indexing it to inflation would sustainably fill most of the revenue gap.