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USA: Should Electric Vehicle Owners in Arizona Pay a Tax to Help with Road Repairs?

It seems like a commonsense solution to Steve Farley.

A Democratic state legislator from the state of Arizona, Mr. Farley has served for six years as a representative from Tucson, and he has seen the incremental growth in the use of electric vehicles in his state.

He has also looked around at the decaying roads in Arizona, with potholes the size of manhole covers that just aren’t getting fixed very quickly, and done a little math in his head.

Road repairs are paid for through gas taxes in the Grand Canyon state. More and more, citizens of Arizona are buying electric vehicles, which of course don’t run on gas, or hybrids, which use much less gas than the average vehicle does. And Arizona’s gas tax is hardly draconian. According to the website Taxfoundation.org, residents there pay only 19 cents a gallon, the 41st most expensive tax of the 50 states. It also hasn’t been raised since the early 1990s.

“As we shift to alternative fuels and high-mileage cars, we’re going to need money for those roadways,” Farley told me in a recent phone interview he conducted between votes in the legislature. “And we’re going to need that money soon.”

So, with roads crumbling and more and more electric vehicles likely to be free of those taxes in the future, Farley decided to introduce a bill in the state legislature. The bill, called HB 2257, would impose a tax of 1¢ per mile driven, starting with the 2014 model year. That amount could go up in future years as the state’s finances change.

Farley’s bill isn’t unique; he said he based it on a similar bill passed in Oregon last year, which requires electric vehicle drivers to pay a tax of 1.43¢ per mile.

A similar law proposed in the Washington state legislature takes a different tack, requiring electric car owners to pay an annual $100 registration fee, to make up for the gas tax.

“For many years I’ve been concerned that as we use less gas, we could run into problems with our roads,” Farley said. “We have a revenue collection system that’s tied to gasoline as the main source, so we’re losing the ability to build the roads we depend on, with less gas being used.

“There’s a relatively small base of EV’s right now,” Farley continued, “so I see it as an opportunity to see if this can be a way to build revenue to repair our roads.”

Farley said his bill is waiting to be heard in the Energy Natural Resources Committee of the Arizona state legislature, but he’s hoping to get a full hearing on it in the next week or two.

He said he’s spoken to many electric vehicle owners about his bill and has gotten their full support.

“I know people who own EV’s and they understand that we need the money,” said Farley, who added that last year $1.4 billion of gas tax money was used to fix roads in the state. “Right now, not having to pay for roadways is a new loophole. These people never expected to get it for free when they used gas; now it’s simply a matter of investing the money you’re saving.”

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