ST. GEORGE- A bill to change the state’s current road user fees for electric vehicles passed the Legislature earlier this month. The purpose of the bill is to get drivers of hybrid and electric vehicles to “pay their fair share” of road maintenance costs.
HB 186, titled “Vehicle Registration Amendments,” was unanimously passed by the Senate on Feb. 18 and is heading to the governor’s office for signing. Prior to that, the bill passed the House by a 61-11 vote.
Scheduled to come into effect in 2023, HB 186 will modify the state’s current Road User Charge (RUC) program to help further sustain state funds for road maintenance. .
Gas tax revenues that traditionally fed into the state highway maintenance fund have declined in recent years due to the use of more fuel-efficient vehicles and the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles . In these cases, drivers either buy less gas or no gas.
The Legislature passed a state gasoline tax hike in 2015, and Rep. Kay Kristofferson of Lehi proposed a bill to change road user fees for hybrid vehicles. and electric in 2021 to help lower gas tax revenue. This bill did not pass and was seen by some environmental groups as potentially discouraging Utahans from purchasing alternative fuel cars.
Sen. Wayne Harper of Taylorsville, the senatorial sponsor of HB 186, told the Senate Feb. 17 that lawmakers met with various stakeholders after the defeat of Kristofferson’s bill in an effort to create new legislation on the issue. This resulted in HB 186, which was presented by Bountiful’s rep Raymond Ward.
“I think this is a very responsible piece of legislation that Rep. Ward and a group of other people have been working on to push through and make sure that we adequately fund our transportation system while recognizing the fact that EVs (electric vehicles) will increasingly be part of the fleet. .”
Currently, electric vehicles are estimated to make up half of 1% of vehicles in use in Utah
Electric vehicle users currently pay $120 a year when they register with the state. If they don’t drive much, an EV driver can enter the state’s RUC program instead, where they pay 1.5 cents per mile with an overall cap of $120. Drivers save money if they drive 8,000 miles or less.
Only about 1 in 10 electric vehicles are registered with the RUC program, as most drivers choose to pay the $120 fee instead.
Under HB 186, effective January 1, 2023, the road user charge drops to 1 cent per mile and caps at $130.25.
In 2026 the use of the road drops to 1.25 cents per mile with a cap of $180 and remains there until 2032 when the RUC rate drops to 1.5 cents per mile and a cap of $240.
While the bill is designed to help maintain a stable level of road funding, it was also designed so as not to discourage people from buying a hybrid or electric vehicle, Ward told a hearing. of the Senate committee on February 14. He also said electric vehicles have environmental benefits that should not be overlooked.
HB 186 has also gained support from the Utah Ratepayers Association and Utah Clean Energy.
While the bill passed through the Senate unopposed, several members of the House voted against it, including three lawmakers who represent parts of southern Utah. They were Representatives Phil Lyman, Rex Shipp and Travis Seegmiller.
Lyman expressed concern about the bill’s impact on rural Utahns, as they drive further to reach essential services than those in urban centers. This led him to ask Ward for clarification on the road user fee cap.
Ward said someone can either pay the set entry fee or go through the RUC scheme. The annual road user charges will be capped at the fixed registration fee and will not exceed this amount. If someone drives less than that, they end up paying less, Ward said.
“I worry about rural communities,” Lyman said.
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