North Dakota Republican Curt Kreun is proposing a new fee, something Republican politicians love to do because fees typically hit the poor and middle class more than the wealthy. The fee he is proposing is aimed at drivers of electric and hybrid vehicles in North Dakota:
Owners of electric and hybrid vehicles in North Dakota would pay an annual fee to make up for lost gas tax revenue under a bill crafted by a Grand Forks lawmaker.
Republican state Sen. Curt Kreun said his proposal would help balance the scales between owners of traditional gas guzzlers who help fund road improvements by paying fuel taxes and drivers of more environmentally friendly vehicles who use those same roads. Under his bill, electric vehicle owners would face an annual $248 “road use fee” and hybrid drivers would see a $71 annual bill.
The fee amounts were calculated using average fuel economy and annual mileage figures. If passed, the electric vehicle fee would be the largest among the 20 states that already impose one, said Kevin Pula, a senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The excuse that he is using, lost gas tax revenue, is both ironic and silly. It is ironic because it is yet another example of a Republican politician who is in favor of higher taxes as long as those taxes are paid via a gas tax, or sales tax, or toll, or fee. They never seem to have much of a problem with those because those taxes, tolls, and fees hit the poor and middle class. The wealthy barely even notice them.
It is silly because North Dakota is currently losing barely any revenue due to electric and hybrid vehicles:
Only 141 electric vehicles were registered in North Dakota this year, along with 3,849 hybrids, Olson said. That’s a fraction of the 1.16 million total vehicles registered in the state last year.
Which illustrates the true intent of this measure: to discourage new purchases of electric and hybrid vehicles. The reason why North Dakota Republicans want to discourage electric and hybrid vehicle purchases is that, like other states such as Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming, the oil and gas industry has basically bought the state’s Republican party. So, North Dakota Republicans will pass each and every bill they possibly can to appease their oil and gas donors, even if it means passing something that is incredibly short sighted.
North Dakota is a great place for clean, renewable energy production. A politician who was looking out for the state’s best interests, instead of the best interests of corporate donors, wouldn’t try to discourage electric and hybrid vehicle purchases. They would try to encourage them. Electric and hybrid vehicles can use electricity that comes from clean, renewable sources instead of dirty sources like oil and gas, and North Dakota is a prime location for those clean, renewable sources:
North Dakota experiences nearly continuous winds, making it a sustainable source for wind energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that average wind speeds in the state range from 10 to 13 mph.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission is also looking at approving the state’s first commercial-scale solar farm. The Public Service Commission had a hearing in the beginning of November for a solar farm near Casselton, N.D. Harmony Solar has proposed a 200-megawatt project. If approved, it will cost $320 million and would be completed in the next two years. And neighboring Minnesota has solar capacity of more than 700 megawatts, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
“North Dakota is at the crossroads of energy,” said Jeff Deyette. “It is rich in fossil energy resources, but also rich in renewable energy resources.”
But, alas, North Dakota Republicans don’t care about any of that. They have their oil and gas donors to appease.
And lest you think they might be sincere about making up for lost revenue from gas taxes, there is another option besides creating a new fee to discourage electric and hybrid vehicle production: they could just raise taxes on the rich. Currently, the top 5% of North Dakota earners pay an effective tax rate (including sales taxes, property taxes, etc) that is less than half the rate paid by the lowest 20% of North Dakota earners:
Source: ITEP: Who Pays?
This is just but one small example of how the corporate ownership of the Republican party impedes progress and increases inequality.