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Lawmakers moved Wednesday to create a new $2,500 tax credit to encourage purchasing electric cars. But they also took another first step toward vastly raising the cost to register electric, hybrid and natural gas cars to pay for it.
That action came in two separate bills in two committees that had clean-air advocates praising one, and attacking the other as hurting people who are trying to help clean the air.
HB74 by Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, would create the new tax credit, similar to a tax break already available for other types of clean-fuel vehicles. The House Revenue and Taxation Committee approved it on a 13-0 vote, and sent it to the House.
Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, said his SB139 would pay for that credit by raising registration fees on clean-fuel vehicles. The Senate Transportation Committee passed it 3-0, and sent it to the full Senate.
Harper's bill originally called for using the higher registration fees to help pay for highway maintenance. He had argued that such vehicles often escape gasoline taxes that fund roads, so raising registration fees would help them contribute.
He amended it Wednesday so that proceeds now will pay for the tax credit instead saying the credit otherwise would be funded from income taxes that go to education.
Harper also lowered his proposed registration fees for hybrid electric cars by $30 to $138. But that is still more than triple the current $43 fee. His bill also triples registration fees for natural gas vehicles, and quadruples them for total electric vehicles.
Harper said too many people saw his original bill "as a conflict between roads and health." He said his newly amended bill "is in support of clean air."
But many clean-air advocates disagreed.
"It's going to penalize the very people who are making conscious efforts to improve emissions and air quality," said Maryann Martindale, executive director of Alliance for a Better Utah. She argued that giving a tax credit but charging higher fees amounts to no incentive to buy a clean-fuel vehicle.
"The two bills together make no sense," said Steve Foxley, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
"There are other ways to raise money to get people out of [gas-fueled] cars," said Terry Marasco, a clean-air activist.