As hybrid car tax takes effect, advocates launch repeal effort

7/3/2013, 12:19 p.m.
As Virginia’s broadly renounced new annual tax on hybrid vehicles went into effect on July 1, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin ...

As Virginia’s broadly renounced new annual tax on hybrid vehicles went into effect on July 1, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Mt. Vernon) joined hybrid car owners and climate advocates outside a Department of Motor Vehicles office to announce their plans to repeal the punitive policy.

"Hybrids already pay gas taxes and the mileage of both hybrids and non-hybrids vary significantly,” said Ebbin. “There are gasoline-only autos that get better mileage than some hybrids, and some hybrids, including SUVs, that do not get mileage as good as many gas-only powered cars. The punitive annual hybrid tax was not well thought out and hastily passed. This issue needs to be revisited and we will introduce legislation to repeal the tax in the 2014 legislative session."

Ebbin and Del. Surovell led the effort to remove the tax from the omnibus transportation funding bill earlier this year. The legislators led a petition campaign that garnered more than 8,000 signatures asking Gov. Robert F. McDonnell for a line-item veto. The tax was originally set to be $100, but was reduced to $64 by McDonnell and the General Assembly.

“We should reward Virginians who do their part to lower climate pollution, not punish them,” said Beth Kemler, Virginia State Director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The hybrid car tax, which will apply to approximately 91,000 vehicles according to the governor’s office, has faced widespread criticism.  Hybrid owners, advocates and pundits have called it an arbitrary measure that unfairly punishes Virginians trying to do their part for cleaner air and a healthy climate.

While a number of states reward ownership of more efficient vehicles, Virginia is one of a handful of states to enact or consider fees on hybrid owners in 2013. In February, during the height of the debate, hybrid car owners paraded around the capitol in Richmond to urge its removal from Governor McDonnell’s transportation package. The protesters decried the plan as an irresponsible political ploy that singles out people trying to reduce their climate footprint.

“Virginians are already experiencing the effects of climate change—more summer heat waves, more hurricanes and, in coastal neighborhoods, more flooding from sea-level rise,” said Kemler. “We want to see policymakers move us forward to address climate change, not backward.”