Texas lawmakers have considered similar proposals in the past. The debate is being revived due to declining revenue from the gas tax. This has caused some to worry about how the state will fund highway maintenance. In the 2020 fiscal year, Texas collected $2.6 billion from the gas tax. This was 7 percent less than the $2.8 billion collected in the 2019 fiscal year, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Another factor fueling the debate is the rapid EV growth expected in the state. They currently make up less than 1 percent of all vehicles on the road. But Tesla is building a huge factory near Austin to produce electric cars, pickup trucks, and batteries. The first vehicles are expected to roll off the production line in late 2021. The number of Texans employed in the electric vehicle sector is projected to grow from 7,000 to 13,000 by 2024, according to a report by the Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance.
State Rep. Bob King, who filed the latest bill for debate, has been calling for the new charge since early 2019. In 2019, King remarked, “With the growing number of electric cars on the road, I think it is time that they pay a proportionate share of highway funding. EVs, on average, have the same impact on wear and tear on the roads.”
King’s bill is also backed by the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. “Our members sell all types of vehicles, and vehicles using the roads should contribute to the maintenance,” comments Jennifer Stevens, a spokeswoman for the Association.
The EV industry has expressed concern that charging drivers more will discourage consumers from purchasing a battery-powered car. In Georgia, for example, a 2015 decision to eliminate a $5,000 state subsidy for EV purchases and impose a $200 road user fee led to a 90 percent decline in the state’s EV sales.
“It doesn’t make any sense to tax the cleanest vehicles on the road at a higher effective rate than comparable fossil-fueled vehicles,” states Max Baumhefner, a senior attorney with the National Resources Defense Council. Some EV owners have suggested basing a charge on the number of miles driven or the weight of the vehicle, which they say would better reflect the share of highway upkeep each individual should pay.