Maine residents purchasing low-emission vehicles may be thinking green, but a new law proposed there has many seeing red.
Introduced earlier this month by the by the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT), the bill calls for imposing new registration fees on hybrid and electric cars, with the proposed additional costs running at $150 annually for hybrids and $250 per year for electric autos.
With more than 19,400 of the battery-assisted vehicles currently on the roads—comprising about 3% of all registered cars in Maine—the popularity of the green movement could turn into a lot of greenbacks. All told, the measure could add an estimated $2.9 million to MaineDOT’s coffers annually.
The move is not a pure money grab but rather a way to recoup any losses incurred from the gas tax, with the emissions-friendly autos hurting the bottom line as they require far less—or no—visits to the pump, according to MaineDOT officials.
Like many other states, Maine’s gas tax funds infrastructure projects and roadway maintenance—efforts Maine state officials say are underfunded by $160 million annually. (The figure refers to repairs and developments identified by the state but not carried out.)
And there’s plenty of work to be done shoring up the the Pine Tree State's asphalt routes, with 53% of the state's roads deemed in poor condition and 32.9% of its 2,402 bridges ruled structurally deficient or functionally obsolete by a 2016 U.S. Department of Transportation report.
Still, low-emission vehicle owners are steamed about the measure, saying it would not just discourage future hybrid and electric purchases but disproportionately saddle them with financial responsibility for the road. The average Maine resident pays closer to $82 in gas taxes annually, a representative of the national trade group Alliance of Auto Manufacturers said at a recent meeting on the issue.
While nearly every state offers some form of financial incentive for purchasing an alternative fuel vehicle, a growing number have offset those benefits—and their gas tax losses—by enacting increased registration, licensing, or road use fees on the low-emission cars. Should the measure pass in Maine, it would mark the 19th state to adopt such a law, as well as the country’s most expensive low-emission registration fee.