State Politics

Idaho Senate advances bill to rescind hybrid surcharge

The Idaho Senate Wednesday advanced a bill to rescind the registration surcharge imposed on hybrid vehicles imposed last year, with several Prius-driving lawmakers dutifully owning up to the potential conflict.

The rescinding measure passed 27-7, with opponents, including pick-up driving Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, noting that gas-only vehicles on balance still pay more in usage fees than hybrid drivers.

Last year’s transportation bill imposed the hybrid surcharge along with imposing a 7-cent increase in the gas tax. The hike for hybrids was intended to balance with the higher fuel cost for gasoline-only vehicles and applied to any vehicle classified as a hybrid by its manufacturer.

Giving up the $75 surcharge has a projected $1 million impact on funding for road and bridge maintenance. Some opponents Wednesday objected to the loss of funding for the state’s challenged and underfunded transportation network.

“We have dangerous conditons in some locations because we have not fully funded roads,” said Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell.

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said the bill also made no provision for reimbursing hybrid owners who have already paid the higher fee.

But sponsor Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and other supporters noted that the higher fee was in fact penalizing hybrid owners more than creating equity. Some gas-powered vehicles now deliver fuel efficiency comparable to or even better than hybrids.

The surcharge “was supposed to correct for the premise of hybrid and electric vehicles paying a fair share that they were not currently, and it can be arguably demonstrated that that is not the case,” Keough said.

The bill, which also exempts local-use-only electrics such as street-legal golf carts, now moves to the House.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @IDSBillD