By Robert Kittle
Columbia, SC (WLTX) South Carolina lawmakers are considering adding a new fee to hybrid and electric vehicles to make sure they're paying their share of maintaining roads.
The money to build and maintain roads comes almost entirely from the gas tax, and since hybrids and electric vehicles use so much less gas, their drivers pay much less in gas taxes than other drivers.
"They're not paying their share," says Bill Ross, executive director for the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads. "The same people that are commuting across the state, whether it's in an alternative vehicle or an electric vehicle or whatever, they're getting the same benefits as everybody else is and they're not paying for it."
What's unusual is that lawmakers are considering contradictory bills. One bill would offer a $1,000 state tax credit as an incentive to get people to buy hybrids and electric vehicles. But others would add new fees to those vehicles. Hybrid owners would have to pay an extra $60 per year and owners of electric vehicles would have to pay an extra $120.
Hybrid driver Eric Small says, "I do think that it's fair. If everyone drove a hybrid, they would have to tax us some other way because they wouldn't have the money coming out of people's pockets from the gas tax."
On top of getting less gas tax money from drivers of hybrids and electric vehicles, gas mileage for all vehicles is getting better, which means the state is collecting even less for roads.
The state Department of Revenue says the money the state got from fuel taxes went from $558 million in the 2011-12 budget year down to $536 million last year. And while the state is getting less and less from the gas tax, the SCDOT says it needs an additional $29 billion over the next 20 years for road and bridge construction and repairs.