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Efforts to end a fee on vehicles that use alternative fuels aren’t likely to get out of the driveway.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Chagrined hybrid-vehicle owners saw their taxes increase this week: Starting July 1, a $64 fee kicked in to help the state make up for the gasoline tax revenue the state loses when motorists use alternative fuels.
The fee is a tiny part of the historic transportation revenue package the General Assembly passed this year — but big enough to give a jump-start to next year’s session.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin and Del. Scott Surovell, both Democrats, promised this week that on the first day of the 2014 session, they will introduce a bill to repeal the fee on hybrid and electric vehicles.
If so, it’s likely to be a nonstarter.
Many, if not all, parts of the hard-fought transportation agreement have detractors. Any revenue cut from it would be money desperately needed after decades of underfunding. And lawmakers have little incentive to start picking it apart.
While the hybrid fee riles vehicle owners, they hardly comprise a huge constituency. And it’s an almost nonexistent one in most parts of the state.
It’s no coincidence that the legislators who want to revisit the issue are both from Northern Virginia — Ebbin is from Alexandria, Surovell from Mount Vernon. There are only about 92,000 alternative-fuel vehicles registered in all of Virginia, but 80 percent of them are in Northern Virginia.
Ebbin and Surovell were joined by representatives of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and by hybrid and electric vehicle owners, who are feeling grossly misused.
The way they see it, they paid more for vehicles that use less gasoline not so much to save at the pump — they do, but it will take years to come out ahead financially — but to be good stewards of the planet.
And they have a point. The less gasoline burned, the less carbon released into the atmosphere, a major contributor to global warming.
The fee, Surovell protested, is “a tax on virtue, a tax on people who are doing the right thing.”
In total, it will amount to about $5 million — not much to carve out of a $1.4 billion budget. “Enough to pay for a stoplight,” the delegate noted wryly.
But then, most Virginia voters won’t be able to feel the pain a $64 fee will cause to those who can afford hybrids in the first place.
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