Houston Chronicle today reports that Representative Ken King of Texas House District 88 is back again with the same bad idea for electric vehicles that he floated in 2019. HB 427 has serious design issues, but the charitable reading is as an attempt to shore up the State Highway Fund by imposing an separate road user charge on alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). That makes sense. Texas state highways are funded through a gasoline tax, which AFVs don't pay. It's not fair to allow AFV drivers to skip out on taxes, so it would be better to collect equitable road user charges from all vehicles. If only this bill proposed to do that...
In fact, the implication of HB 427 is a discriminatory and punitive tax on EV drivers that lacks any semblance of a serious effort to address a yawning gap in the State Highway Fund. Let's run through the problems with this bill (none of which have been corrected since its predecessor bill failed in 2019).
Problem 1: It's discriminatory. The road user charge proposed by HB 427 is ostensibly designed to collect revenue from AFVs. Why then does it make unnecessary exclusions for compressed natural gas and liquid propane gas? This makes no sense from a fairness perspective.
Problem 2: It's punitive. HB 427 proposes to collect twice as much from EV drivers as from conventional vehicle drivers. The average Texas vehicle pays just a little over $80 per year in gasoline tax, however HB 427 proposes to collect 150% more than that from fully-electric drivers with an annual charge of $200. For drivers of hybrid electric vehicles, their combined gasoline tax and EV fee would likely be between $120 and $160 annually which works out to a 50-100% premium over conventional vehicle drivers. Why would Texas want to punish EV drivers?
Problem 3: It's unserious. The math on this tax is not difficult (a high school student could do it in under 5 minutes with just google and a calculator) and yet seemingly no effort has been made to get it right. Nor has any apparent consideration been given to the fact that disincentives for EVs would run at odds with Texas' incentives for EVs through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
In conclusion, fair road user charges for all vehicles is a worthy goal toward which Texas ought to strive. Lobbing unfair and unserious potshots at EV drivers really doesn't help. It's counterproductive. Texas EV drivers are proud Texans, too. It's not hard to imagine that Texas EV drivers would be quite happy to pay a fair road user charge, if only someone would propose one.