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Lawmakers eye electric vehicles for road money

Stefan Kellner
Flickr http://ow.ly/NtcRu

Republican state lawmakers are eyeing electric and hybrid vehicles as a possible source of road money. They say vehicles that are built to use less fuel should have to pay higher registration fees.
Higher registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles were a flashpoint as the new House Roads and Economic Development Committee continued to work its way through a dozen bills that are supposed to raise more than $1 billion for roads after voters thrashed Proposal One earlier this month.

Environmental groups oppose adding regulatory costs to alternative fuel vehicles that already cost more than fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks.

Charles Griffith of the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center says now is not the time to add more cost to the nascent technology. He says some of the most popular models, such as the Chevy Volt, are homegrown successes.

“Why would we want to disadvantage this technologically-advanced Michigan-made product?” he asked the committee.

Elizabeth Treutel of the Michigan Environmental Council said taxes and fees should be technology agnostic. She said there hybrid SUVs that have worse fuel mileage than gas-sipping compacts.

“Now is not the time to discourage the purchase of these important emergent vehicle technologies through a higher tax,” she says.

Treutel says because of their sticker prices, electric and hybrid vehicle owners already pay more in sales taxes and registration fees.

That didn’t sit well with state Representative Peter Petallia, R-Presque Isle.

“That Chevy Volt driver is driving on the same roads as that person that’s driving a $10,000 car that can’t afford the Chevy Volt,” he said. “And, I, I guess I don’t understand how you can sit there and say that it’s not fair that electric vehicles, because they already pay so much for the vehicle, don’t have to pay for roads.”

Republicans are also looking at shifting money from economic development programs to help pay for roads. But MEDC officials warned that would jeopardize some popular and effective programs, including the Pure Michigan tourism and business attraction campaigns.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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