In One Fell Swoop, GA Senate EndsTax Credits, Introduces $200 Annual Fee for Electric Cars

For the past few years, the southern state of Georgia has enjoyed a position at or near the top of electric vehicle sales charts, aided by enthusiastic salespeople and a generous $5,000 in state tax credits to each and every citizen buying an electric car. Combined with up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, this has meant for some time that buying an all-electric car in Georgia has been as cheap — if not cheaper in some situations — than buying a comparable gasoline vehicle.

"GeorgiaCapitolBuilding" by w:en:User:Autiger - w:en:Image:GeorgiaCapitolBuilding.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

“GeorgiaCapitolBuilding” by w:en:User:Autiger – w:en:Image:GeorgiaCapitolBuilding.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

But as we’ve been reporting for many months now, Georgia’s generous electric car incentives have been under attack from several of its elected officials in the legislature who have argued that tax credits for those wealthy enough to buy an expensive plug-in car simply aren’t fair. As a consequence, we’ve seen a barrage of bills introduced that aim to dramatically change or even eliminate those incentives forever.

Until last week, not a single bill had succeeded in passing the legislature, with many dying on the house floor or running out of time before the end of a legislative session. Last week, that changed when HB170 — the Transportation Funding Act of 2015 — was passed by both houses and sent to the desk of Republican Governor Nathan Deal.

As the Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition details, HB170 — a bill primarily focused with helping the state of Georgia pay for the maintenance and upkeep of its crumbling road infrastructure — would bring into effect some rather sweeping changes should it be signed into law. Firstly, it would end the current $5,000 state tax credit for electric cars on July 1 this year while simultaneously implementing a new $200 per year license fee for anyone with an alternative-fuelled car. Those with commercial alternative-fuelled vehicles will pay $300 per year.

Georgia's tax credits for electric cars will end on July 1 if HB170 is signed into law.

Georgia’s tax credits for electric cars will end on July 1 if HB170 is signed into law.

While the bill officially defines an alternative fuelled vehicle as one which is powered by electricity, natural gas or propane, it then says that the new fees ‘shall not be asses on vehicles which operate primarily on compressed natural gas, liquified natural gas, or liquified petroleum gas.’

And that, as the attentive will note, leaves just electric vehicles as being liable for the new registration fees. s

It would also replace the sales tax currently levied on gasoline and diesel fuel in the state with an excise tax of 24 cents per gallon on distributors who sell or use motor fuel within the state.  In addition, it would end a tax credit which has been in place for more than ten years on aviation fuel, which was put into place to aid the then bankrupt Delta Airways and has helped encourage airlines to use Atlanta, Georgia as an international hub.

While the bill did pass the Senate and is now on the desk of Governor Deal — who has publicly stated his support for the bill — it’s worth noting however that passing HB170 wasn’t easy.

During its pass through both houses, HB 170 and its various amendments have faced some pretty tough opposition, both from sides of aisle.

Even its final vote — 29 to 25 with 2 excused — was a close call.

Sadly however, HB 170, unlike the various other bills introduced to the legislature which proposed a gradual reduction of plug-in incentives in the state, is the only one to have made it through the Assembly and Senate on its way to the Governor’s desk. Now, its passage into law seems somewhat inevitable.

So if you’re a Georgia resident looking to buy a plug-in car and want the $5,000 tax credit, you’ve got a few months left to act before the credits expire on July 1.

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