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Utah Bill To Raise Electric Vehicle Fees By Up To 400% Sparks Debate On Air Quality And Road Usage

A close up of an electric car charging with snowy landscape in the background.
Under proposed legislation, plug-in electric vehicles in Utah would have to pay a $260 annual fee on top of their registration fee.

A Utah House committeeapproved a bill Monday that would dramatically increase annual fees for electric and hybrid vehicles starting next year.

Annual fees would go from $120 to $300 for electric vehicles; from $20 to $50 for hybrids and $52 to $260 for plug-in electric cars. Those are on top of the $44 registration fee that all cars 12,000 pounds or less have to pay each year.

The idea is to bring those fees closer to what the average driver of a gas-powered vehicle pays in taxes at the pump, which go toward paying for road maintenance.

“In the line of air quality, it's important to have these vehicles, but in the line of equity and maintaining our roads … we've got to pay for that,” said the bill’s floor sponsor, Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville. “[We’re] just trying to create parity here with the funds that everybody pays so everybody can pay for the same impact that they have on the roads of the state of Utah.”

According to an analysis from the Utah State Tax Commission, the average vehicle in Utah pays about $380 each year in state and federal gas tax at the pump. But Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, said lawmakers shouldn’t use data from mostly gas-powered cars to make policy decisions about electric vehicles.

Harrison and other critics of the bill are also concerned about the environmental impacts of making electric vehicles more expensive to own than they are now.

“This sends the wrong message to Utahns about what our priorities are,” Harrison said. “We need to be encouraging people to take that step to purchase cleaner vehicles. This bill is an assault on that encouragement of consumers to make the right choice for clean air.”

The legislation passed the House Transportation Committee 6-4 Monday. It still needs approval from the full House and the Senate.

Editor’s Note: Rep. Suzanne Harrison is a member of KUER’s Advisory Board.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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