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Florida EV owners may get their own version of a gas tax

Electric cars charging at charging station outdoors at sunset.
Konstantin Sutyagin/logoboom
As EVs and hybrids grow in popularity, Florida is getting less gas tax revenue for road work.

Electric vehicle owners in Florida may join drivers in 31 other states who now pay the equivalent of a gas tax. A proposal in the Florida Senate would create a fee for drivers of most hybrid and electric vehicles.

“Senators, for years we have tap danced around the fairness of non-combustion engines paying their fair share for our road construction and maintenance,” Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Palm Harbor, told the Senate Transportation Committee Monday.

Hooper’s bill would impose an additional yearly license plate registration fee of $200 on electric vehicles (EVs). Plug-in hybrids would be charged an additional $50. Both of those numbers would increase by $50 in 2028. The bill was amended to include exemptions for those vehicles that use a battery storage system of up to five kilowatt hours.

Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, questioned why it’s being called a fee. “I’m just trying to reconcile in my head how it’s not a tax,” he said. Republicans are loath to raise taxes.

When drivers in Florida fill up their gas tanks, the per gallon price includes taxes that go toward road work. As EVs and hybrids grow in popularity, less gas tax revenue comes in. As Hooper explained to Pizzo, EV drivers use the same roads for free.

“This adds a fairness amount to that registration period for those who use our highways and roads and do not pay any gasoline tax to their local county, the state or the federal trust fund,” Hooper said. “But you would agree this is to offset tax revenue losses from combustion engines?” Pizzo asked. Hooper responded, “I would agree.”

“Why is this a fairness issue? Floridians, we pay about 1.82 cents in gas tax per mile. That includes federal, state and local,” former Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad told the committee. He led FDOT from 2011 to 2015. He is now president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association, a membership group. He cited a legislative analysis that shows local and state governments are losing $58 million a year because of EVs.

“On average Floridians drive 13,500 miles a year,” Prasad said. “So that math works out to be $245 a year in gas tax that EV vehicles should be paying.”

“It really doesn't matter if it's gasoline or diesel. It’s the fact that we have to build roads and infrastructure, and no matter how we do it, someone's got to pay for it. So this is an effort to equalize that prospect, is that kind of your thinking?” asked Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Pensacola.

“Yes, it's a fairness issue,” said Prasad. “If you're driving 13,500 miles a year, it doesn't matter what kind of car you drive. Whether it's electric, plug-in hybrid or internal combustion, you should pay for the usage of the road.”

The bill got unanimous support in the committee. It has no House version.

If approved, the bill would take effect July 1st.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.