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Plum to Appeal to Governor on Hybrid Tax

$100 fee part of Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation plan, but several legislators would like to see that point repealed.

Reston has a large number of hybrid vehicles - and likely a large number of hybrid owners who are likely not pleased with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's $100 hybrid tax.

Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) is one of them. Plum, who owns two Priuses, says he is writing to the governor to try and get him to back away from the hybrid tax.

The hybrid tax was part of the large transportation plan that passed in the Virginia General Assembly last week. The reasoning: Since hybrid cars don't pay as much in gas tax, they need to pay up somewhere.

Hybrid vehicles currently make up only 1.3 percent of Virginia's vehicle fleet. With Virginia gas taxes being reduced to approximately $0.10-0.12/gallon, the typical hybrid owner will avoid less than $40 per year in gas taxes yet be required to pay an extra $100 per year to the Commonwealth.

"I am writing to the governor to ask him to rethink that whole proposition," Plum said. "The idea was his, but I think it ended up in final bill as kind of a compromise. The transportation plan came came as one package, and we could not vote on the pieces of it."

Plum said it did not make sense to vote the whole package down due to a few specific faults that the governor can later amend.

"The whole [hybrid tax] is a faulty concept," said Plum, a hybrid owner since 2003. "It treats hybrids and electrics exactly alike when electrics don't pay any gas tax at all.  We should be encouraging people to buy hybrids. This is kind of a disincentive." 

Meanwhile, Alexandria-area delegates Scott Surovell and Sen. Adam Ebbin have launched an online petition urging McDonnell to repeal the hybrid fee.

“The idea that we would tax people for being environmentally friendly is ridiculous. We should be encouraging green behavior like this, not attacking it. We may as well start taxing people for having solar panels and recycling while we’re at it," Surovell said in a statement.

Northern Virginia has the highest hybrid ownership percentages in Virginia and in the entire United States.

 "This leaves Northern Virginians feeling even more singled out,” Surovell said. Surovell and Ebbin both voted against the transportation bill, which diverts money from education and public safety in addition to the fee on hybrid vehicles.

Are you a hybrid owner? How do you feel about the proposed hybrid tax?

Chipperson February 27, 2013 at 12:15 PM
But Howell - D - voted for this bill - what's the matter with it? Are liberal overlords approved!
John Smith February 27, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Economical, environmentally friendly transportation should be encouraged, not singled out and penalized! If we accept Governor McDonnell's logic, people should be encouraged to buy and drive big, wasteful, gas-hog, environmentally unfriendly cars and trucks because they'd provide more gas tax revenue. Hmmm. . . what's wrong with this picture? Let's hope that some enlightenment and common sense ultimately prevail on this issue; on the other hand, however, can we realistically expect our government to start with that approach now?
John Smith February 27, 2013 at 03:35 PM
If Virginia needs to raise additional revenue it could do so by levying a special surtax on people who don't smoke, because these folks provide the state with less revenue from cigarette tax than do smokers. The surtax on non-smokers could be used finance lung cancer care for the smokers and other, yet-to-be-specified benefits for the non-smokers. Oh, and let's not overlook special surtaxes on people who don't use much electricity, water, or other resources. Most inconsiderate of these folks to deny us all the taxes we garner if only they were to be more profligate in their use of resources.
Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky February 27, 2013 at 04:47 PM
How about this innovative idea: Since the hybrid surcharge rationale is really based on what the Commonwealth needs to raise in revenue, not actual individual resource use, why not apply the same logic to other taxes. If we need more sales tax revenue, let's slap an under-consumption fee on those slackers who aren't buying enough consumer goods to satisfy state revenue needs. How about those low-wage, unemployed, permanently disabled, and retired folks scraping by on meager resources? They're not contributing their fair share of income taxes, are they? Let's hit them with an underachiever's fee. This has so much potential, we should just expand it across the spectrum of fees, taxes, and tolls so we soak up every available dime of discretionary income from everybody. My one misgiving about suggesting this, though, is if a member of the General Assembly runs across it, s/he may not understand this is intended as irony and promote the idea. As we've seen on numerous occasions, in Virginia no notions are too crazy to find a patron in our state legislature. (State currency, anyone?) Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky, Portsmouth, VA
Gene February 27, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Please explain to me how such vehicles pay for road use on an equal basis to those of use who are paying more in gas taxes. While I think this new bill helps by shifting some of the gas tax to sales tax it's not the complete answer. The purpose of the gas tax is to pay for roads, their improvement, and their maintenance. It clearly is not a good formula for this emerging class of vehicles(Hybrid and Electric). Regardless of how friendly they are to the environment the fact is they use the roads. I have an F150 that I use sparingly, my little FIAT gets about 38MPG more than some of the hybrids, and all of my motorcycles get 45MPG or better. In terms of road use the motorcycles and the Fiat put less wear and tear on our roads than some of the hybrids. It's also not clear that the hybrids should be getting special treatment such as HOV use, that defeats the purpose of HOV in my opinion, if it was based on fuel efficiency then my Fiat should be allowed. These are just points to consider, I'm not proposing that the Fiat or the Motorcycles be given special treatment, rather I'm proposing that Hybrids should not be given special treatment.
John Smith February 27, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Gene, Nobody is asking for "special treatment" for hybrids. All we're asking is for equal treatment, and for not being specially penalized for using energy-efficient transportation. If we need more revenue for roads, the straightforward way to get it it to increase the gas tax. Period. Then those who choose to drive gas-guzzling vehicles will pay at the same rate as those who don't. You certainly don't deserve to be penalized with a surcharge on your motorcycle or Fiat, and neither do drivers of hybrids.
Gene February 27, 2013 at 09:42 PM
John I don't agree, the formual is wrong and until they fix that a Prius or Volt needs to contribute it's fair share for the use of the road. I have no idea how you can estimate how much the Prius is on electric and it's not fair that a Volt gets the same treatment. Fact is it should be based on miles driven not fuel use, that is why the current formula is wrong. Gas Tax might have been fair when the family sedans were all getting about the same MPG and larger vehicles that do more damage to the road surface also got less gas mileage so things were sorta fair. It's nol longer fair and it needs to be corrected. Personally the plan to eliminate the state gas tax and go to a sales tax seemed like a better plan. And BTW just wait to see how this plays out when Natural Gas comes into play, quite easy to convert a car to that and it will totally change the paradigm.
Mike M February 27, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Two things: 1) I believe the Virginia GOP has intentionally tried to target Liberals with this tax change. 2) I also understand that the tax is for road maintenance and gas consumption does not correlate with wear and tear on the roads. Both 1 and 2 seem to be true in my book. The gravity just rolled downhill to this likely conclusion. I've said it before and I'll say it again. . . Sending Ken Plum to Richmond is like sending a poodle to a pit bull party. Reston Liberals expect continued abuse. PS: I will enjoy watching it until you ditch your mother superior attitudes and keep things logical. I'll know you are there when you replace Collins, Hudgins, and Plum. Local pols who play to emotions and not logic.
Gene February 27, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Yes and normally Ken Plum has not seen a revenue he doesn't like so I take his push back as personal since he drives hybrids.
John Smith February 27, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Here's a really great idea! Seeing as how motorcycles and motor scooters use our roads too, and they use even less gas than hybrids, I propose that all owners of motorcycles and motor scooters should have to pay a special annual tax: $200 for motorcycles and $300 for motor scooters. Time to quit giving all those leeches a free ride! At this rate we'll soon have a huge budget surplus! At first, I didn't see the beauty in Governor McDonnell's plan, but the more I think about it the better it gets! Now, let's think about the annual tax on people who own bicycles! Don't they use our roads, too (and sometimes even our sidewalks)? And how much gas tax do they pay? Hmmmm . . . maybe an annual tax of $500 per bicycle? It's time to quit giving all these leeches a free ride! They need to pay their fair share! Governor McDonnell is a fiscal genius!
Gene February 27, 2013 at 11:33 PM
Okay with me but the rate for motorcycles , motor sccoters would not be greater than hybrids it would be less. As a lifelong motorcyclist I'm use to being singled out and coming up on the short end. Like I said the model of moving it all to sales tax seemed to be a better way to do it. Since I finally quit smoking a few years ago not sure I'm on board with me having to pay a fee cause I'm not generating that revenue. If the revenue was missed someone should have thought about that and came up with a way to replace - maybe by reducing spending. Bottom line is your comments are what is wrong with America we cannot have a serious debate over the real issues without taking it to absurd positions. Nothing that has been said here has changed my understanding of the issue and how a solution has been attempted. Ken Plum could not get his way during the legislative session so now he is going to try an end around. I cannot help but feel this is partly because he drives a hybrid. The fact that $100 a year has become such an issue is over the top IMHO let's focus our energy on real money like the cost of the toll road or the increase we are about to get from Fairfax. - Gene
Java Master February 28, 2013 at 03:57 PM
All vehicles should be assessed a user fee for street and road maintenance--a straight fee for all cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc. If you use the roads, you pay for the roads, it's a simple as that. Here's an idea--how about incrrasing the "personal property" tax to cover our tansportation needs? Plus a comprehensive excise tax on all vehicles at the point of sale, whether new or used? Hey that sounds like a tax increase! Why, we can't possibly do that! Hybrid owners should stop whining!
John Smith February 28, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Why should hybrid owners stop "whining," Java Master? And why do I suspect that if some new tax singled YOU out and punished YOU for making an economically intelligent and environmentally friendly decision you'd whine, too!? If Virginia wants to become known as environmentally and technologically backward, then this new tax is a great way to accomplish that goal in short order.
Gavin Wright March 01, 2013 at 03:20 AM
John, a truly "fair" system would tie taxes to usage, not byproduct consumption. Like $0.10 per mile driven. That way, those individuals who use the road the most, would pay the most. I agree that a special "hybrid" tax isn't a good idea. But how do we tie tax revenue to an all electric car like the Nissian Leaf? That vehicle would pay effectively $0 into the transportation budget, but could benefit from everything it provides. Roads, salt and sand trucks, safety patrols. What would our transportation budget be if everyone drove all electric cars?
static March 01, 2013 at 04:22 AM
Simply raise the gas tax. As you say, not only hybrids sip gas. The gas tax is not only a tax to cover road improvements, but also to price the impacts to the air of burning fuel, and to encourage fuel efficiency (not just in hybrids). The surcharge for hybrids is ridiculous, because you pay it without regard to how much usage the vehicle gets. You can't really accurately track miles driven without invasion of privacy issues- you could make more toll roads, one supposes. I don't know why natural gas would affect this, as it can be taxed just as easily.
static March 01, 2013 at 04:25 AM
Gavin- For the Leaf, Tesla, etc., simply devote a portion of the tax on electricity to the transportation budget.
Dave reston March 01, 2013 at 05:25 AM
Do hybrids not cause the same wear and tear on roads that normal cars do? We don't get the same gas tax from them that we would normally get because they use less gas. Greenies will argue that they are "saving the environment" while ignoring the horrible damage lithium mining does, then argue that they deserve HOV rights and that they not have to pay "their fair share" that they complain that no one else pays. Shocker.
Gavin Wright March 01, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Static - I think that's a good idea. However, execution maybe a little difficult. If you own a full electric car, do you need to inform your power company, who then add an additional tax? Or are you saying just add a tax to electricity consumption that is devoted to transportation budget? If that's the case, then you'll be taxing those individuals that don't have full electric cars. This is a difficult topic. But at the end of the day, the transportation budget is X. Due to high mpg cars and full electric vehicles, that funds being collected are not enough to fund the budget and we need to find ways to fill the gap. Gas consumption is dropping, as we find alternative fuels, we'll need to find alternative ways to raise funds for the transportation budget.

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