HONOLULU (KHON2) — With more electric vehicles hitting the roads, revenue from the state’s fuel tax is dropping, which is money that’s supposed to help repair Hawaii’s roads. Now, a bill is moving through the legislature looking to replace the state fuel tax with a road usage charge program.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation said the conversion from the state’s fuel tax to a road usage charge program is necessary.
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The HDOT reported more than 24,000 electric vehicles on Hawaii’s roads. However, the gas tax fuels $80 million into the HDOT’s highway systems, funding things like regular maintenance, pothole filling, reconstruction and building new road systems to name a few.
“We start losing that revenue source for the state and now that’s a good thing in that we have clean energy, but it’s a bad thing that we need to depend on funding to fund our highway system,” said Ed Sniffen, HDOT director.
The bill is working to create a road usage charge program, applying to electric vehicle owners first. Under the proposal, by 2025, a mileage-based road usage charge would start and EV owners would have these options.
“We’ll track your mileage and you’re going to get charged 0.08 cents per mile that you travel based on the difference between your two inspections,” Sniffen said.
However, electric car owners have some questions.
“Although it’s a small island, everyone does a lot of driving and I mean I like to go to the North Shore once in a while,” said Kaedin Okimoto, an electric vehicle owner.
The HDOT does clarify that the road usage charges to EV owners would have a limit.
“That payment that you’ll make is capped at $50 every year or if you don’t want to be part of the program you can opt out of it and just pay the $50 upfront,” Sniffen said.
State lawmakers said other states are already converting their fuel taxes to a road usage charge and Hawaii should do the same as the tide is turning from gas vehicles to electric.
“We’ve already had states like Utah, Oregon and others adopt this mechanism,” said Sen. Chris Lee, (D) chair of the Senate Transportation and Culture and the Arts Committee. “It’s a way to ensure that everyone pays their fair share. I imagine this year the bill is moving along and I would expect it to get a lot of public feedback to see how to approach it and how we can structure things.”
Officials said, this would be a first step in expanding to a statewide program by 2033 for all vehicles.
“You’ll actually be charge for the mileage you drive rather than the congestion you sit in or the fuel that you burn during times you’re not even moving so this should help everyone,” Sniffen said.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Transporation and Culture and the Arts Committee for consideration.