Why Electric-Car Owners Should Be Happy For New Colorado Tax

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Old cabin near Twin Lakes, along Colorado's Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway

Old cabin near Twin Lakes, along Colorado's Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway

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Stories about new or proposed taxes on electric cars are generally viewed as negative, even punitive, by plug-in vehicle advocates.

Now, there's one that likely shouldn't cause all that much ruckus: Colorado is about to levy a $50 annual fee on any car that plugs into the wall to recharge its battery pack.

In doing so, it joins the fast-growing list of states (both red and blue) that single out cars with plugs--or in some cases, high fuel efficiency--for new and special added taxes.

Seven or more states

The rationale is that because these cars don't use gasoline--or at least, use less of it--their owners aren't contributing their fair share of gasoline-tax revenue to state and Federal coffers.

As many know, there aren't nearly enough gas tax dollars to keep America's roads up to snuff as it is.

Electric-car tax initiatives are currently in effect or under discussion in Arizona, Michigan, Oregon, TexasVirginia, and Washington.

But what's so great about Colorado's new tax, which takes effect January 1, 2014?

For one thing, it's low: just $50 a year, compared to the $100 level in many of the other states that have added the special taxes.

Paying the annual fee will get the plug-in electric car owner a decal that must be attached to the upper right-hand corner of the windshield.

Funding public infrastructure

Even better for electric-car advocates, the legislation that created it (HB 13-1110) specifies that only $30 of that money goes into the state treasury for the Highway Users Tax Fund.

The other half, fully $20 per plug-in car per year, goes into the state's Electric Vehicle Grant Fund, which pays for public charging stations and other infrastructure.

That fund, established four years ago, was never allocated a revenue source--so until the electric-car tax was implemented, its goals remained purely theoretical.

Electric-car advocates worked together with legislators to craft the Colorado compromise, according to a source involved in the negotiations, who asked to remain unidentified.

Tesla Roadster recharging at Denver International Airport, from SolarDave blog

Tesla Roadster recharging at Denver International Airport, from SolarDave blog

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Averting more onerous fees

The proposal successfully forestalled future actions by elected officials less friendly to plug-in cars and a perceived "green agenda" largely identified with one side of the political spectrum, said the source.

So while no one likes new taxes, this one seems less onerous than many similar levies in other states.

The bill has been passed by both houses of the Colorado legislature, and is now awaiting the signature of governor John Hickenlooper.

It's almost enough to make electric-car owners believe in the famous words of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

In a rebuke to a secretary who had complained about the duty, he supposedly said:

I like to pay taxes; with them, I buy civilization.


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