Following its adoption in recent months via the Oklahoma Legislature, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has struck down a new fee aimed at drivers/owners of plug-in electric vehicles and hybrids — owing to the fee being “an unconstitutional tax.”
This news follows on the Oklahoma Supreme Court making a similar ruling as regards a new fee aimed at cigarettes.
The bill aimed at electric vehicles and hybrids was approved by the state legislature back in May, and would have imposed a $100 annual fee on owners of electric cars and a $30 annual fee on owners of hybrid vehicles.
The argument behind the fees was the need to make up for the lost fuel tax revenue that would otherwise be used for road construction and repair — a controversial argument owing to the reality that large, heavy trucks are responsible for the vast majority of road damage.
Here’s more on the subject from an Oklahoma news source: “In the 6-3 ruling, the court said the Legislature did not create extra regulations or show any other purpose with the bill than to raise revenue. House Bill 1449 ‘clearly levies a tax in the strict sense of the word and the incurred revenue from it is not incidental to its purpose,’ wrote Justice Joseph Watt.
“Tax hikes must meet a set of strict constitutional requirements to become law. Along with receiving a three-fourths majority vote in each legislative chamber, bills must be adopted at least a week before session ends and can only be introduced in the House. The electric and hybrid vehicle fee bill was passed with a slim majority in the last week of session.
“… Unlike the $215 million in revenue expected from the cigarette fee, this ruling won’t take such a large chunk out of the budget. If it were allowed to stand, the fee would have brought in about half a million dollars this budget year and about $1 million next year, according to a legislative analysis. Revenue from the fee was expected to rise as more drivers switch from gas tanks to batteries.”
Unsurprisingly, the new ruling has been greeted negatively by lobbyists of various kinds. This quote from a Bobby Stem, of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors, was particularly funny/interesting: “Our roads and bridges are taking a beating from these heavier vehicles, yet they do not contribute equitably to maintenance and repair. … I understand and appreciate why people might want to invest in these eco-friendly vehicles, however we must make sure that they pay their fair share for upkeep of the infrastructure.”
It should be noted here that Stem represents the interests of road builders. Even with that said, though, what a dishonest statement. The vast majority of road damage is from the freight shipping — which does indeed not pay its fair share in that regard — not from electric vehicles and hybrids (many of which aren’t even that heavy).
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