New Electric Charge Too High for OK Supreme Court

By: Bridget Clerkin November 9, 2017
Oklahoma's Supreme Court scrapped a state plan to increase the registration fees on electric vehicles in a ruling last month.
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A newly-adopted motor vehicle fee in Oklahoma provided too much sticker shock for the state’s Supreme Court.

The Oklahoma justices ruled 6-3 late last month that registration fees on electric and hybrid cars in the Sooner State were unconstitutional.

Approved in the dying days of last year’s legislative season, the charges in question hiked up the price of registering an electric vehicle in Oklahoma to $100, while the hybrid vehicle registration fee grew to $30.

All told, the increases were expected to reap a small windfall for the state, estimated to generate close to $500,000 in the current fiscal year and more than $1 million annually once the program took full effect.

Many state officials, including Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, derided the ruling, saying the funds were earmarked for work on highway construction and maintenance. Without the revenue stream, the state now faces an even larger budgetary shortfall this fiscal year, with an estimated deficit of $215 million.

The justices were unmoved by such arguments, agreeing instead with the Oklahoma Sierra Club, which brought the suit. The organization argued that the tax hike suffered problems both elemental and procedural, as it represented an unconstitutional revenue bill and never received the proper three-fourths majority vote in the state Legislature to pass into law.

The environmental club also contended that the tax would impose greater costs on electric vehicle drivers than the gas tax, and potentially work to dissuade car buyers from purchasing such models.

Still, the state’s Supreme Court has been favorable to budgetary challenges this year. This August, it shot down a recently approved cigarette tax, which was projected to raise more than $200 million for the state.

And while it’s unclear whether the state will appeal the registration decision, if the ruling stands, it may help more Oklahomans adopt electric vehicles much Sooner.

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