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Friday, September 13, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Drivers who use America’s roads and bridges should be the ones contributing to maintain them. That includes drivers of electric vehicles.

America has crumbling highway infrastructure. Roads and bridges are essential to our daily lives and our nation’s economy. President Trump and Republicans in Congress agree it’s time to fix them.


In August, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which I chair, unanimously advanced historic legislation to invest in our highways. America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act authorizes $287 billion for the Highway Trust Fund over five years. More than any highway bill Congress has ever passed.

This legislation will have a real impact. It must be paid for. Drivers of electric vehicles should help cover the cost.

The electric vehicle market is booming.

According the California’s Air Resources Board, year-over-year electric car sales increased every month last year and total electric car sales increased 84 percent from 2017 to 2018.

The Edison Institute projects over 6 million light-duty electric vehicles will be on the road by 2025.

Right now, none of these vehicles contribute to the Highway Trust Fund, the main fund that is used to fix America’s highways.

Drivers of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles pay into the fund every time they fill their tanks. Electric vehicle drivers completely avoid this user fee.

If these electric vehicles were contributing to the Highway Trust Fund at a rate comparable to drivers in my home state of Wyoming, it would generate over $17 billion for road maintenance between 2021 and 2029.

I have introduced the Fairness for Every Driver Act to ensure that drivers of all vehicles are helping to maintain our roads.

My legislation establishes an annual highway user fee for alternative-fuel vehicles that would be comparable to what drivers of gas-powered vehicles pay.

Over the next decade, this new user fee will produce billions of dollars for road maintenance and new projects. It will also help ensure the Highway Trust Fund is solvent for the future.

The legislation is about fairness for everyone using our roads. It’s also about saving the American taxpayer money.

Thirty-five years ago, the federal government began providing subsidies to electric car buyers in order to help support the growing market. Back then, the options for purchasing these cars were very limited and the overall cost of the subsidies was small.

That’s not the case today. Nearly every automaker is ramping up electric production.

Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen have all announced large investments in this market. 

Luxury brands like Maserati and Aston Martin have gotten into the game with cars costing more than $85,000.

Here’s the catch: Every time one of these electric vehicles is sold in America today, U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for up to $7,500 in subsidies.

From 2011 to 2017, the subsidy cost taxpayers an estimated $4.7 billion. 

The American taxpayer shouldn’t be subsidizing people purchasing luxury vehicles. The electric vehicle market is established and here to stay.

The Fairness for Every Driver Act ends these expensive subsidies.

According to the Manhattan Institute, ending this expensive program could save taxpayers up to $20 billion.

Instead of contributing to road maintenance, electric-car buyers are receiving checks from Washington. That needs to stop.

We can fix our roads and close these electric vehicle loopholes at the same time.

Congress needs to make a serious investment in America’s roads and bridges. Congress needs to pay for it. A good place to start is by asking every driver who uses the roads to pay in. 

• John Barrasso, a Republican senator from Wyoming, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. 


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