Buying a hybrid or electric car used to get you a tax break, back in the Obama era.
Now, though, it's just the opposite in several states, where hybrids are being hit with new taxes.
Across the country, states are asking them to pay new fees for road upkeep, as lawmakers say these cars don't pay their fair share, compared with gasoline cars.
But some owners claim they are being charged more for going green, and they are not happy at all. Among them: Vic and Donna Riley, who are big fans of hybrid cars, and now own their second Toyota Prius.
The Rileys are furious that their Prius will now be charged extra at annual plate renewal time. They feel the state is penalizing them for driving a fuel efficient car.
"To punish individuals who buy hybrid cars I don't think is fair," Vic Riley said. "We do it to save money, and save the environment."
New fees reduce hybrid cost advantage
The latest state to add an extra fee is Ohio, where as of July 1st, 2019, hybrid owners pay a $100 surcharge each year. Owners of electric cars like Teslas and Nissan Leafs will have to pay another $200 at renewal time.
After years of subsidizing hybrid cars (with incentives as high as $5,000 for buyers), 22 states are now going after them for between $50 and $200 a year, according to a recent Sierra Club report.
Other states with fees include Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina, California, Colorado, and Indiana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
And many more states are looking at these cars as a new revenue source. Lawmakers and governors in those states say electrically-powered cars are not paying enough in gas taxes, used to maintain roads.
Donna Riley says that's unfair to people who are trying to help the planet.
"Now they want to turn it around and charge us because we are not using enough of their fuel," she said.
Is it a penalty...or just fair?
But supporters of the new fee say they are not trying to penalize people just because they bought a hybrid or electric car.
Rather they say everyone who drives on the highways in the state needs to pay their fair share toward the upkeep of those roads.
Greg Lawson is an analyst with the Buckeye Institute, a free market, anti-government spending think tank.
"Hybrids use less gas," Lawson said, "so there has to be some mechanism in place for users of the road, who are still contributing to wear and tear, to pay some portion of it."
But Prius owner Silvio Abenti thinks lawmakers are going after hybrid owners in an unfair way, trying to get their Obama-era hybrid tax breaks back.
"Now they are asking for that back, that is my question," Abenti said. "They gave us a break and now they are asking us to pay for it."
The Rileys worry people will now give up on hybrids.
"Now the incentive is not to buy one because they want to slam you with a surtax," Donna Riley said.
The Sierra Club claims sales of green vehicles are already falling in states that have increased their annual fees, particularly in Georgia, where an EV surcharge was added at the same time a state tax credit for buying an electric care was eliminated.
Whatever car you drive, don't waste your money.
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