BISMARCK — North Dakota House lawmakers agreed to impose a new "road use fee" on electric and hybrid vehicle owners Thursday, March 14.
The bill creates annual fees of $120 for electric vehicles, $50 for "plug-in" hybrid vehicles and $20 for electric motorcycles. As introduced in January, the bill would have imposed a $248 fee for electric vehicle owners, which would have been the largest among the 20 states that already impose one.
House lawmakers passed the bill in a 72-17 vote Thursday. The Senate will need to agree with changes made by the House before the bill is sent to Gov. Doug Burgum.
Proponents of Senate Bill 2061 have framed it as a matter of fairness. Fuel taxes paid by owners of traditional gas-guzzling vehicles help pay for maintaining the same roads used by electric and hybrid owners, they argued.
The state has a 23-cent-per-gallon gas tax that raised $165.7 million for road and transit projects in fiscal year 2018, according to the state Department of Transportation. State lawmakers earlier this session rejected bills to raise the gas tax, which supporters said would help ensure road projects are adequately funded.
A report the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute released last year pegged the state’s total infrastructure funding needs at $21.2 billion between 2016 and 2035.
"As much as I support electric vehicles, we do need to pay for our roads with something like this, which is a user fee," said Rep. Ron Guggisberg, D-Fargo. But, he argued, the bill wouldn't raise enough revenue to "fix our problem."
The original proposal would have raised less than $400,000 for state coffers every two years, but transportation officials couldn't estimate how much revenue the updated bill would generate because it couldn't determine how many "plug-in" hybrids or electric motorcycles are in the state. House lawmakers added language to single out the plug-in variety of hybrids, which can substitute electricity for gasoline, according to Union of Concerned Scientists.
There were only 141 electric vehicles registered in North Dakota last year, the state DOT previously said. But they are expected to become more commonplace.
Fargo Republican Rep. Thomas Beadle agreed that lawmakers need to ensure they have enough road funds, but he pointed out that the bill would only affect North Dakotans and not visitors who also use roads here.
"We need to start looking as a body at finding additional methods and alternatives to funding some of our roadway infrastructure works," he said.
The bill includes a legislative study of electric vehicle infrastructure.
The Senate is considering a similar House bill focused on electric vehicle fees.
Destiny Wolf, a Tesla 3 owner from Dickinson who testified on the fee proposal earlier this session, was fine with paying $120 a year but said a per-mile system would be more fair.
"People don’t want to pay more, but roads come from somewhere," she said.