Gov. Paul LePage’s administration wants electric and hybrid vehicle owners to pay a new annual fee of up to $250. That could make up for the gas taxes they avoid by driving ultra-efficient cars, the argument goes. But at a legislative hearing today, early adopters of the technologies turned out in force to oppose the measure.
Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt says a wave of electric vehicles is on its way to the state.
“To build the needed infrastructure to support electric vehicles will require money, money that now is being generated on the backs of the drivers who participate in contributing to the highway fund through the gasoline tax. These are the same taxes that electric vehicles do not pay. This proposal is not meant to be a punishment,” he says.
Opponents say whether intentional or not, the measure is punitive.
“I’m telling you that this is an unfair tax on my family, and there’s no one here on this board or in the DOT who could prove me wrong using mathematics,” says Travis Ritchie, a Mechanics Falls resident who works at a garage that specializes in electric-vehicle repair.
John Fulton of North Yarmouth was one of many who said the proposed annual fee would force electric vehicle owners to pay more than they would if they drove comparable gas-powered cars — and paid gas taxes.
“I’m 70, my wife is retired also. We measured it. We do about 10,000 (miles) a year in our 2014 Nissan Leaf. This will give a whack, double over what a person in a (gas-fueled) car will pay in additional gas tax,” he said.
LePage’s administration says the fee would raise $2.5 million annually to help pay for road maintenance and make sure that electric vehicles don’t get a free ride.
The joint transportation committee could take a vote on the proposal later this month.