Would proposal to tax EV owners in Florida level the playing field?

As Florida’s new legislative session begins Tuesday, one bill up for debate aims to tax electric vehicle owners.

Florida is one of the fastest-growing states for electric vehicle owners.

But some are questioning whether the proposal is trying to address the infrastructure issue or if it is politically motivated.

Bill Bortzfield is a connoisseur of electric vehicles. He runs the website EVRider.TV and owns three electric vehicles himself.

He got his first EV, a motorcycle, in 2014. And he says not only are EVs better for the environment, but they perform better on the roads than gas cars.

“Carbon is probably the biggest challenge overall that our society faces right now,” Bortzfield said. “The quicker we can move away from anything that’s generating carbon emissions, the better in terms of environment and slowing global warming.”

A bill introduced by Republican lawmaker Ed Hooper of Clearwater aims to tax EV owners like Bortzfield.

In December, the Senate Transportation Committee backed a proposal that requires electric vehicle owners to pay $200 in registration fees, plug-in hybrid owners would have a $50 fee and owners of electric motorcycles would be charged $25.

Many people who own EVs say they lower their carbon footprint while also saving money on gas. They also say that this new bill wouldn’t necessarily level the playing field.

Bortzfield believes EV users should pay by the mile like drivers of gas cars.

“I don’t think this bill is equitable because it doesn’t tax people equally,” Bortzfield said. “So in other words, if you’re gasoline driver, you pay by the mile. Whereas if you’re an EV driver, you pay one flat fee for the year.”

News4Jax Political Analyst Rick Mullaney said Democrats and Republicans both have strong opinions on the issue.

“(Thre are) two issues,” Mullaney said. “One, there is a political divide on this issue. Certainly, blue states versus red states when it comes to the transition of electric vehicles.”

The other issue, Mullaney said, is the revenue problem of getting EV users to pay a tax just like drivers of gas cars to help pay for road projects.

“Over time, there’s going to have to be determination on what is the correct amount for a registration fee, so it’s more closely aligned with the usage of those roads and highways,” Mullaney said. “Is that a precise number? No. Is it a fair number? We don’t know yet. I suspect that number will shift over time.”

Bortzfield said there’s no question that politics are involved when it comes to EVs.

“The fossil fuel lobby is very strong,” he said. “Everybody has their own opinion about whether or not we need to move to EVs as our primary transportation source. Sure, of course you’re going to see differences in opinion, but the bottom line is everyone who drives does need to help pay for the infrastructure that we all need.”

A similar bill aimed at putting extra fees on EVs and hybrids failed in 2021.

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