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A tax on virtue or a matter of fairness? The question ripples through states trying to prop up their ever-shrinking highway funds while eyeing the “free ride” enjoyed by green vehicle owners.
The fast-growing cohort of people who drive zero- and low-emission cars and trucks can take satisfaction in their lower environmental footprint. But there’s a downside, at least for states and the federal government: When cars gas up at the pump less often, governments collect fewer fuel tax dollars for highway needs. The lost revenue is just a part of the well-documented decline in highway funds as the federal gas tax remains static, auto fleets achieve ever higher fuel efficiency and new technology enables alternative fuels.
Enter the notion of recouping at least some lost revenue by slapping special fees on green drivers—notwithstanding ongoing efforts by Washington and many states to instead encourage these vehicles through income tax credits, lower registration fees and even free parking spaces. The fees are meeting sporadic success, rankling many drivers and environmentalists.