The Feb. 25 Statesman stated that a million dollars would be lost for state funded roads if SB 1311 passes. Actually, SB 1311 would stop the state from unfairly taking $843,825 from 11,251 hybrid owners at $75 per vehicle. The purpose of SB 1311 is to restore fairness because many hybrids do not necessarily get better gas mileage than new small cars with internal combustion engines.
As for the hybrids that do get better miles per gallon, the gas tax savings are far less than the $75 fees taken from them. During the Senate debate Feb. 24, Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, made a good point. He said that “the senator from 35 (Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton) should not compare his old pickup truck with a Toyota Prius Hybrid.” Besides using the two-year average 25,000 miles, vehicles have different purposes and people make choices that have different consequences. Rice said we should only compare vehicles such as the Camry Hybrid with a Camry internal combustion engine car. However, by not penciling out the actual highway savings, he mistakenly concluded a much higher gas tax savings than reality and opposed this legislation.
Most of the gas taxes pay for state highways that have higher speeds and better mpg than city streets. Therefore the mpg ratings used here are figured at highway rates. A Hybrid Camry gets 39 mpg highway instead of 35 for the gas-only Camry. The Highlander Hybrid gets 28 mpg highway and the gas-only Highlander gets 25. The Toyota RAV4 hybrid gets 31 mpg highway and the gas-only RAV4 gets 30 mpg. For a realistic 10,000 miles per year, the assumption is that all 10,000 miles are driven exclusively on Idaho state highways as if no city, county, federal interstate or out-of-state roads are used. That is highly unlikely, and so the actual gas tax savings for IDOT are even lower than what is listed here.
Comparisons among these nearly identical vehicles show tiny gas tax savings. The Hybrid Camry would only save $9 in gas taxes over its gas counterpart. The Highlander Hybrid would save $14 in gas taxes over the gas Highlander. The Toyota RAV4 would save just $3 in gas taxes over the gas-only RAV4. Remember, all these savings are assuming that all of the 10,000 miles are only on Idaho state highways.
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The math is simple, but the conclusion that the rush to end the session last year included the inadequately debated $75 on gas hybrids is difficult for some legislators to swallow. Thankfully, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, sponsored the correction in SB 1311. Most senators realized the mistake and corrected it 27-7. Correcting a mistake is a very civil act, thank you.
The facts show that last year’s $75 registration fees on gas hybrids was arbitrary and capricious and should be removed. Now it is up to House Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Palmer to let democracy work by having a hearing and let legislators vote to remove this unfair $75 penalty fee against hybrid owners.
Ed Wardwell, of Boise, is a retired Idaho public school educator and a concerned husband, father and grandfather.