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All passenger cars could see at least a $10 hike in yearly registration fees under legislation on its way to the Senate. Fees for electric, hybrid and natural-gas vehicles, meanwhile, would skyrocket by as much as $70 annually.
The Senate Transportation Committee voted 4-0 in support of SB231, which would generate an estimated $31 million or more a year for roads and clean-air projects.
Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, its sponsor, said registration fees for passenger vehicles now cost $43 a year. He is proposing to raise it at least to $53 for most vehicles.
But he said because alternative-fuel cars now largely escape gasoline taxes that help fund roads, he is proposing to greatly increase their registration fees by up to 113 percent to make up some of the difference.
Those fees would rise to $103 for natural gas and hybrid vehicles, and to $113 for electric cars and some that other alternative fuels such as hydrogen.
"We're not treating all people who use the roads in the same fashion," he said.
Harper said an average gasoline-powered car in Utah gets 25.4 miles per gallon, drives 12,458 miles a year and spends $120 in gasoline tax.
"A hybrid, in comparison, pays about $25 [in motor fuels tax]. An electrical vehicle pays nothing. Natural gas pays about $35. Propane pays nothing," he said.
Even with the increase in registration fees, alternative-fuel vehicles would pay less toward roads than gasoline-powered vehicles, he said. That OK, he added, "to recognize that they are cleaner-fuel vehicles and also are good for the air."
Also under the bill, 60 percent of new money from the fees would go to the state, and 40 percent would go to cities and counties. Currently, money from transportation taxes are split 70-30 between the state and local governments.
Legislators are seeking ways to cover a projected $11.3 billion shortfall through 2040 for priority road and transit projects in the state's transportation plan.
Senate leaders have also proposed a 10 cent per gallon hike in the state's 24.5 cent gasoline tax. The full Senate is expected to debate that on Wednesday. The state gasoline tax has not been raised since 1997.
House leaders have instead supported converting the cents-per-gallon tax into something closer to a sales tax, charging a percentage of the price of gasoline. While that tax would be set initially to match current gasoline taxes, its revenue likely would rise quickly as gasoline prices rise.
House leaders also are backing a proposal to allow voters to decide whether to raise sales taxes by a quarter-cent per dollar for city and county roads and mass transit.
Gov. Gary Herbert said at a press conference Tuesday that he's confident the House and Senate can find compromise and "get something done. I think both the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike, realize we need to make some adjustment in transportation spending."