Legislator introduces bill to hike electric vehicle fees

Two other transportation bills address titling fee, sales tax distribution formula

Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, introduced three transportation-related bills in the Idaho House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, one of which would increase electric vehicle registration fees from $140 to $300.

Palmer, who chairs the Transportation and Defense Committee, told legislators the bill would bring electric vehicle registration fees “into parity” with the fee that would be paid for someone driving a regular car. The bill includes a provision allowing the electric vehicle owner to pay 2.5 cents per mile driven and report that mileage annually to the Idaho Transportation Department instead of paying the full registration fee. Palmer said that’s because he recognizes that some electric vehicles drive fewer miles on the road than a standard vehicle.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, asked Palmer why it was necessary to increase the amount.

“My understanding was $140 was already set at a far higher level than the gas tax they are already paying,” Rubel said. “My concern is that (this amount is) outright punitive.”

Palmer said the amount is based on the average mileage per year by a gas-powered car versus electric vehicles. The registration fee for a gas-powered vehicle in Idaho is $69 for vehicles one or two years old and $57 for vehicles three to six years old.

Via Twitter, Idaho Power stated its opposition to the bill in a reply to Boise City Council Member Holli Woodings.

“EV adoption is part of the clean-energy solutions our communities want and need,” the tweet stated. “For years, Idaho Power has worked to expand EV adoption in the state. This proposal runs counter to those efforts and the efforts of many others.”

As of 2019, 1,014 electric vehicles were registered in Idaho, representing over $140,000 per year in fees. The increase would raise that amount to an estimated $300,000 per year, according to Palmer.

The bill was introduced by a vote of 4-3, with the three Democrats on the committee voting against it. 

Transportation funding distribution bill introduced

The committee also approved the introduction of a bill from Palmer that would change the distribution formula in existing House Bill 314, which was still under consideration in the Transportation Committee. That legislation amends the Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mediation program to increase the sales tax used to bond projects for roads and bridges from the current 1% to 4.5%.

The new version would allow $80 million of the $87.8 million the change is projected to raise to be distributed to the general fund, with the remaining amount allocated to local highway districts. It follows the funding request from Gov. Brad Little, who said that amount would allow bonding of up to $1.6 billion for roads and bridges. 

Third bill would add convenience fee for on-site titling

Palmer also introduced a bill that would add a $29 “convenience fee” for individuals who title a vehicle at a dealer rather than at the DMV. He confirmed it would be an optional service that could raise an additional $6.1 million annually for the state’s Strategic Initiatives Fund and potentially reduce lines at the DMV.

All three bills will be printed and referred to the appropriate committees for full consideration.