Earth Week legislation would end registration surcharge on hybrids, electric vehicles

    Electric car charging station
    Electric car charging station (Erik Gunn | Wisconsin Examiner)

    Two lawmakers have proposed legislation to drop Wisconsin’s registration surcharges for hybrid and electric vehicles, replacing them with a new surcharge for vehicles weighing over 3,000 pounds.

    Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton) unveiled the proposal this week with a nod to Earth Week. They are circulating it in draft form seeking cosponsors.

    “With the impacts of global climate change we should be doing everything we can to incentivize, not discourage Wisconsinites to make green decisions in their purchasing,” Snodgrass stated.

    Larson said that while the measure is intended to support efforts to reduce climate change and pollution by supporting buyers of electric or hybrid vehicles, it also points to the need for lawmakers to create “more equitable and sustainable transportation funding mechanisms” for the state.

    “Wisconsin is heavily reliant on the gas tax to fund its transportation infrastructure,” Larson stated. “Over time, as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, we will need to consider new and innovative ways of funding these critical needs, while doing all we can to protect against climate change and ensure clean air across our state.”

    Wisconsin motorists have about 81,000 electric and gas-electric hybrid vehicles, according to the two lawmakers. The surcharges account for an estimated $6.21 million in revenue each year.

    To offset the loss of that money, the proposed bill would raise the annual registration fee for vehicles weighing 3,000 pounds or more by an additional $5. Fees would remain unchanged for vehicles weighing less than 3,000 pounds.

    Wisconsin instituted a $100 surcharge on electric vehicles in 2017 and added a $75 surcharge on hybrid vehicles starting in 2020. The rationale was to ensure vehicles that used no gasoline — or much less gasoline in the case of hybrids — contributed to the cost of highway maintenance, which Wisconsin covers in part through gasoline taxes.

    State registration fees are $85 per year for standard passenger automobiles and $100 or more for trucks, based on weight. The proposed surcharge would cover about 25% of vehicles in use in the state and raise more than $7 million based on 2019 registration data, according to Larson’s office.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.