Eco-friendly drivers upset by Gov. McDonnell’s transportation plan

Posted at 6:59 PM, Jan 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-10 06:25:38-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--The governor’s plan to help fund transportation is making some of the most eco-friendly drivers upset.

Under Governor Bob McDonnell’s transportation proposal, people who drive alternative fuel vehicles will have to pay an additional $100 registration fee, compared to the new additional $15 fee for drivers who don’t. 

Aubrey Pettaway, a Toyota Prius owner, says he bought his car seven years ago to save money and to be environmentally friendly.  He says McDonnell’s plan will discourage more people from buying hybrid and electric vehicles.

“For people to be green, I think that’s important to our quality of life here in Virginia.”

The governor’s plan, proposed on Tuesday, will eliminate the state’s 17.5 cent gas tax, one of the lowest in the country.

The gas tax will be replaced with a 0.8 percent increase in the sales tax that is dedicated to transportation.  The governor says the plan will help generate $844 million in new funding by fiscal year 2018.

While University of Richmond Transportation Economist George Hoffer says the plan is unique, he says it penalizes drivers of alternative fuel vehicles.

“We’re penalizing them in a very funny way,” Hoffer says.  “We’re penalizing them with a $100 per year fixed fee.  Now that would make sense if we were getting most of our revenues from the gas tax, but it’s now being switched to the sales tax.”

Hoffer says the proposal is ironic in that Virginia has been on the frontier of adopting new technology smart cars.

“The winners here are people who drive fuel inefficient vehicles and winners are people who drive a lot of miles,” Hoffer says.

However, Hoffer says he compliments the governor for “thinking outside the box” in looking for alternative ways to fund transportation because the gas tax is a dying source of revenue for the state.

Prius owner Aubrey Pettaway says the plan may generate more revenue in the short term, but he says the long term impact could be devastating.

“I’m hoping it remains a proposal, as opposed to a law,” Pettaway says.