Classic: States debate taxing green cars to recover lost gas tax revenue

So, the government interferes in the market by incentivizing its citizens to buy hybrid and electric with big ol’ tax credits. It’ll be great for consumers and the environment, they say! You’ll save money and the air, it will be sweet with good intentions. But then people actually bought those electric and hybrid cars, car manufacturers responded to government mandates and consumer pushes for increased gas mileage, and the economy and gas prices dictated that a bunch of people start watching how much they drive. And, now you’ve got a revenue problem, what with far less money coming in the form of gas taxes.

What’s a state government to do? Well, certainly not remove its grimy hands from the mix for half a second to see what the natural state of the market might bring. Certainly not start making rational decisions about how to use this declining revenue as efficiently as possible. Certainly not stop raiding infrastructure funds for whatever they damn well please before coming to citizens for more taxes (Hi, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley). No, no, no, now they gotta tax those green cars that they got you to buy with those tax incentives in the first place! Sorry, suckahs! Shoulda known any deal with the devil was bound to burn up:

SAN FRANCISCO (Bloomberg) — Hybrid and electric cars are sparing the environment. Critics say they’re hurting the roads.

The popularity of these fuel-efficient vehicles is being blamed for a drop in gasoline taxes that pay for local highway and bridge maintenance, with three states enacting rules to make up the losses with added fees on the cars and at least five others weighing similar legislation.

“The intent is that people who use the roads pay for them,” said Arizona state Senator Steve Farley, a Democrat from Tucson who wrote a bill to tax electric cars. “Just because we have somebody who is getting out of doing it because they have an alternative form of fuel, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pay for the roads.”

I’m somewhat sympathetic to the notion that, because gas taxes pay for roads, it’s unfair for those who aren’t buying gas to get what critics call a literal free ride. This problem is more pronounced with bike riders who argue for reconfiguration of entire cities’ roads without throwing a whole bunch in the pot. But the larger point is how elaborately stupid, counterproductive, and at odds with itself idiotic governments become in using our money to push for one policy with subsidized products, only to turn around and complain that all those subsidies are costing them money. Um, yes, that’s what we were saying years ago when you started subsidizing these cars with thousands of our dollars and lecturing us about how awesome it was going to be. STEP AWAY FROM THE RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINES IN YOUR MINDS. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

Here’s what the tax structure looks like at the moment in states trying this. The prices are low-ish now, but please don’t be silly enough to think they’re not going up:

In Washington state, electric-car owners this year began paying a $100 annual fee. Virginia in April approved a $64 annual fee on hybrid and electric cars.

In New Jersey, Senator Jim Whelan, a Democrat from Atlantic City, has proposed a $50 annual fee on electric and compressed natural-gas cars that would be deposited into a state fund for road and bridge maintenance…

In Arizona, Farley’s measure, which has stalled, would impose a tax on electric cars of 1 cent per mile driven on the state’s highways, amounting to about $120 annually per car, he said. Texas lawmakers considered a similar bill this year.

In Indiana, lawmakers created a committee to study a local road impact fee on electric and hybrid cars to be paid at registration.

North Carolina’s Senate on May 23 approved a budget plan that includes a $100 fee for electric cars and $50 for hybrid cars, said Amy Auth, deputy chief of staff for Phil Berger, Senate president pro tempore. The plan has gone to the House for review, she said.

I look forward to the taxing of non-smokers to make up for all that lost tobacco tax revenue, too.

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