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Vermont Senate advances annual EV fee within larger transportation bill

Signs at city street parking say "EV" and "This space for electric vehicle parking only"
April McCullum
Vermont Public
A Burlington downtown parking space is reserved for electric vehicles.

The Vermont Senate advanced a controversial provision Tuesday that would create Vermont’s first-ever user fee for electric vehicles.

Supporters say the state can use the revenue to build out EV charging infrastructure in underserved areas of the state, but opponents worry the surcharge could discourage Vermonters from making the transition to EVs.

The legislation would, beginning in 2025, require the owners of electric vehicles to pay an annual fee of $89 to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Senate wants to use those revenues to subsidize the construction of charging stations, especially in areas of the state that don’t currently have access to “ports.”

Lamoille County Sen. Rich Westman, a Republican, said the plan would help address one of the big disincentives to electric cars in his district.

“I think in rural Vermont, in my poorer communities that are in my county, the reason people don’t switch is because there aren’t public charging stations,” Westman said. “And until we can get a system of charging stations across the state where everybody feels comfortable that they can charge their car, we’re not going to have the take up in electric cars that you would want out in the countryside in Vermont.”

More from Vermont Public: Vermonters are buying more electric vehicles, but parts of the state are still waiting for chargers

Other senators, however, say they worry the added cost will slow the electrification of Vermont’s transportation fleet by making it more expensive to own an electric vehicle.

“I have a concern that there may be people who would like to switch, and who have a deep desire to do something for the environment, that this fee will simply make that impossible for them,” said Chittenden County Sen. Tanya Vyhovsky, a Progressive.

Washington County Sen. Andrew Perchlik, a Democrat, said the federal government offers significant tax credits for EV purchases. And he said EV owners will still avoid both the cost of gasoline and the accompanying taxes that help fund the maintenance and repair of Vermont’s transportation infrastructure.

“We have a lot of incentives for electric vehicles on the purchase price that far, far far exceed the $89 that you’d be paying,” Perchlik said.

Windsor County Sen. Dick McCormack, a Democrat, said the state should make it as cost effective as possible for Vermonters to switch to a transportation technology that will measurably reduce their carbon emissions.

The proposed surcharge would generate about $1.7 million annually in new revenue. If the state needs that money to fund charging infrastructure, then McCormack said they should look elsewhere in the $8.6 billion state budget to find it.

“We’ll have to look for other sources of money,” he said. “The idea that this is the proper place to look I think minimizes the significance of the issue.”

The Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to the EV surcharge provision, which is part of a much larger transportation bill that still needs approval from the Vermont House.

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The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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