Proposed Senate bill would increase the cost of owning an alternative fuel vehicle

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - Clean air is a top priority and top concern for many in Utah, but a proposed bill seems to be in opposition of those clean air goals. Senate bill 139 would mean those who drive cleaner burning vehicles would see an increase in annual registration fees.

The bill would mean owners of compressed natural gas, electric or hybrid cars would be charged an extra $85 to $120 a year to make up for the fuel tax they dodge by driving their cleaner cars.


The average driver of a gas burning vehicle in Utah pays about $120 in state gas tax every year. That money goes to pay for Utah’s roads, but for those drivers who hit the highways in an electric or a propane vehicle, they pay nothing and one senator says that's not fair.


Senator Wayne Harper told ABC 4 Utah, "We're about $90 million short each year on maintaining our state roads, our city roads, and our county roads. This isn't about revenue but saying everybody should pay their fair share."


Sen. Harper is proposing legislation that would increase the cost of yearly vehicle registration fees for those drivers of alternative fuel vehicles.


"If you're a hybrid vehicle and paying $35 a year in motor fuel tax this will raise up your registration by $85 to pay the same amount as the average gasoline or diesel vehicle will pay,” explained Sen. Harper.


Equal pay for equal rights to the roads, but not all lawmakers agree with Senator Harper's logic.


"I wonder what's next, hummers drive free on HOV lanes?” asked Democratic Senator Jim Dabakis. “I mean this is to the point of almost insanity where we want to reward the gas guzzling cars and penalize the cars and the people who are bringing in clean air."


Proponents for clean air say alternative fuel vehicles already cost more, so rather than charging them more they should be paying less.


Director of Clean Air Now Carl Ingwell told ABC 4 Utah, "These vehicles have higher sticker prices in the first place and not everyone can afford them already, so if we're encouraging these people to go out and buy these cars to help clean our air then we ought to be encouraging them monetarily as well."


Sen. Harper said, "These alternative fuel vehicles do cost more, conversions do cost more that is a personal choice that a consumer makes when they go through and do it. However, if we do not adequately maintain our roads and we have a smaller group of people paying for people that do not pay that is not equitable."


Sen. Harper says argues his plan is two fold. He says there's another bill, HB 74 that gives a $2,000 tax credit for the purchase of a new electric vehicle. He tells ABC 4 Utah he doesn't expect one to pass without the other. There are already similar bills on the books for natural gas and hybrid vehicles.

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