NC Lawmakers Hope to Even Road by Charging Green Car Drivers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- North Carolina may be joining other states in charging fees to electric and hybrid car drivers.  That way, like their gas-guzzling counterparts who pay taxes on that gas, they'll be contributing to state coffers for building and maintaining roads.

State lawmakers proposed drivers of electric cars pay $100 a year and hybrid car owners pay $50 a year, proponents say.  The proposal is part of the budget that was introduced and passed by the state Senate.  Now, the legislation is off to North Carolina's House to be hashed out in a conference.

"The problem is that as more and more people are driving efficient vehicles, people are buying less gas, which is how we raise money for our transportation funds," said North Carolina Sierra Club communications director Dustin Chicurel-Bayard.

Earlier this month, North Carolina lawmakers proposed to make it illegal for electric car maker Tesla Motors to use its direct-sales method to sell cars in the state.

Chicurel-Bayard said he opposes the idea of charging electric and hybrid car owners fees.

"If this is the way that the legislature hopes to close the gap on transportation funding, we're going to be in trouble for a very long time," he said.  "Having fees for specific types of vehicles isn't going to cut it.  We need to find other solutions for a changing society."

State Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, supports the idea.

"We earn our revenue (for state) transportation from three sources: fees; highway use tax, or the 3 percent tax on automobile purchases; and the motor fuels tax, also known as the gas tax," Rabon told the Wilmington's StarNews.  "[The gas tax] is about 55 percent of our revenue."

Rabon did not immediately return a request from ABC News for comment.

North Carolina isn't the only state to consider evening the playing field for green and gas car owners. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a similar piece of legislation into law in April.  Drivers of alternative fuel vehicles in that state are subject to a $64 fee to support Virginia's transportation network. While Washington state taxes electric car drivers $100 annually.

One New Jersey lawmaker proposed charging all drivers 0.00839 cents per mile driven, therefore avoiding targeting green car drivers directly.  That idea evolved into a flat fee of $50, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Jay Friedland, legislative director of Plug In America, a 501(c)(3) coalition of electric car advocates, said green car drivers want "to pay their fair share."

"We're not objecting to that," he said.

But he is concerned that taxing electric or green car drivers in this way before enough cars are on the road is counterproductive to the benefits these cars bring to these states, such as cleaner air.

"Those cars are providing additional benefits to the state.  They're cleaner and not polluting, so you're getting an extra benefit in petroleum and pollution reduction," he said.

Instead, Friedland proposes road taxes should be paid based on miles traveled and the weight of a vehicle, "independent on any fuel source," he said.  This is called a VMT-based road tax, or vehicle miles traveled.

Washington state's law has a clause that by 2015 it will reconsider the law and evaluate this VMT-based road tax.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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