Owners of electric vehicles, hybrids may have to pay an annual fee to use Louisiana roads

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Louisiana's electric and hybrid vehicle owners could be charged an annual road usage fee under a bill that cleared the state House of Representatives.

Supporters of Baton Rouge Rep. Barbara Freiberg's House Bill 1031 argue current EV and hybrid owners are getting a free ride on Louisiana's roads and bridges because they either pay no gasoline taxes or a reduced amount in the case of hybrids.

"I think it's only fair everyone who uses our roads pays something," Freiberg said late Monday when presenting her bill.

House members agreed, voting 82-13 in favor of the measure. Since Freiberg's bill imposes new fees, it required a 70-vote minimum (two-thirds) in the House and will also require a super majority for passage in the Senate.

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Most of the tax revenue generated to pay for upkeep and improvement of existing roads and bridges is through the 20-cents-per-gallon state gasoline tax.

Freiberg's bill would charge EV owners $110 annually and hybrid owners $60 annually through the state income tax form, which would rely on voluntary compliance.

"This intent is to establish the principle of paying a fair share," said Louisiana Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson during the bill's committee hearing.

Wilson said Louisiana has $14.8 billion in deferred transportation maintenance projects. Thirteen state bridges have already been closed this year because they're either unsafe or in disrepair.

"I do believe it puts us all on a level playing field," said Republican Haughton Rep. Dodie Horton during committee debate.

Thirty states have already imposed taxes or fees on EVs and hybrids, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Among them are neighbors Arkansas and Mississippi. Texas doesn't yet impose a fee for EVs and hybrids, though Freiberg said legislation is being presented there as well.

"We are in line or lower than our surrounding states," Freiberg said of the proposed fees.

Wilson said the average driver of gasoline-powered engines in Louisiana pays $148 per year in state gas taxes, though that varies by the make, model and number of miles someone drives.

Freiberg's bill would dedicate 70% of the revenue generated from the fees to the upkeep of state roads and bridges, while 30% would go to local roads and bridges.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Should EV, hybrid owners be charged 'fair share' fee in Louisiana?