HARRISBURG — A move to force electric vehicle owners to pay an annual fee because they don’t pay gas tax hit a speed bump as lawmakers mull how much the cost should be.
Under existing law, electric vehicle users are supposed to make an alternative fuels tax payment to the state, but few do. House Bill 1392 would replace the existing alternative fuels tax with the user fee.
The legislation was poised to get a final vote in the state House last week, but lawmakers hit the pause button after an amendment increased the amount of the proposed fee from $150 a year to $250 a year.
The increase in the proposed fee amount was opposed by all Democrats and a handful of Republicans, but it passed 94-90 last Thursday.
“Once that happened, some members determined they needed additional time to consider the impact of that fee. So it was tabled for now and could come up again this fall,” said Mike Straub, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, a Republican from Lancaster County.
In a memo seeking support for the legislation, state Rep. Mike Carroll, a Democrat from Luzerne County, said that the average motorist in a gas-powered car pays about $276 a year in gas tax.
“The fees under my bill are more than fair and are comparable to the electric vehicle fees enacted in 21 other states,” he said. Carroll was among those who voted against the move to increase the fee to $250 a year though.
Advocates have said the fee is necessary because few people with electric cars pay the alternative fuels tax.
“In 2017, there were approximately 9,100 of these vehicles in the commonwealth, according to a study by Plug In America. Less than 1 percent of that number remitted the alternative fuels tax” that year, said Jeffrey Johnson, a Department of Revenue spokesman.
Carroll said most electric vehicle owners don’t pay the alternative fuel tax because the process is “cumbersome” or they aren’t aware they are supposed to be paying the tax.
The number of motorists driving electric cars is increased, according to trade groups.
Last year, Pennsylvanians bought 6,063 electric vehicles and 10,902 hybrid vehicles, according to the Auto Alliance, the trade group representing car makers. Only California, Florida, New York, Texas, Washington and Illinois had more electric or hybrid cars sold in them last year than Pennsylvania, according to the Auto Alliance.
Among nearby states, only Virginia and West Virginia have electric vehicle fees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Virginia, motorists pay a $64 electric vehicle fee. In West Virginia, the electric vehicle fee is $200 for electric vehicles and $100 for hybrids, according to the NCSL.
John Finnerty reports from the Harrisburg Bureau for The Meadville Tribune and other Pennsylvania newspapers owned by CNHI. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.