Co-chair of House transportation working group prefiles bill that would create annual fees for hybrid, electric vehicles

As state representatives consider ways to shore up Kentucky’s Road Fund, the co-chair of a House working group exploring that issue has prefiled a bill that would establish annual fees for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Rep. Sal Santoro, a Florence Republican who co-chairs the House Working Group on Kentucky’s Transportation Infrastructure, has proposed a three-tier system that would set a $50 fee for hybrid vehicles model year 2019 or newer, $100 for hybrid-electric plug-ins and $150 for cars that run solely on electricity.

Those amounts, due when drivers renew their registrations under the prefiled legislation, would be the established floors for each category, with fluctuations tied to increases and decreases in the state’s gas tax.

For Santoro, his legislative proposal is about fairness and similar to one that other states have begun to implement. He says drivers with electric and hybrid vehicles are using the state’s road system without paying an adequate share for maintenance and construction.

“Presently there’s about 400 electric cars in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Santoro told Pure Politics Tuesday. “These people go, they plug their car in at night and enjoy themselves in the morning to drive on our roads. The hybrid cars — 29,000 hybrid cars in Kentucky. They just simply go in, buy gas sometimes, sometimes they don’t.”

Santoro expects his prefiled bill, if passed into law next year, would generate $1.7 million for the Road Fund each year.

When asked about the 2019 cutoff for hybrid vehicles, Santoro said that seemed like an appropriate point to begin charging those who drive hybrids.

“We’re just hoping that these people would feel that it’s their obligation to maybe come up and pay the fee, but this day and age, I doubt that would happen,” he said.

At this point, Santoro says he doesn’t expect his proposal will be expanded to include all drivers of hybrid vehicles.

“I doubt it, but I’m always optimistic, and you never can tell what this legislature may do,” he said.

Santoro says he expects to discuss the proposal with House leaders in the coming weeks.