Electric Car Tax Incentive Passes the House

House ChamberElectric cars may become more attainable for Utahns after this legislative session. On Tuesday, the House passed HB 74 on a 59-13 vote.

The bill, which gives a larger tax incentive for Utahns to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles, was sponsored by Representative Lowry Snow (Republican – St. George), and extends the current $2,500 tax write off for CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) vehicles to hybrid and electric vehicles. Currently, the tax incentives for hybrid and electric vehicles were $650.

[pullquote]We face, in Utah, sometimes a crisis level inversion. Statistics tell us that 50 percent of what we see outside, during the inversion… is attributable to vehicle use – Representative Lory Snow[/pullquote]Snow’s bill also extends this classification to “plug-in” vehicles like the Chevrolet Leaf, a plug-in hybrid.

The bill has a sunset provision of one year to ensure that the Legislature remain agile in adaption of newer, more fuel efficient technology. Snow called the bill a direct response to car pollution and current car technology. “We face, in Utah, sometimes a crisis level inversion. Statistics tell us that 50 percent of what we see outside, during the inversion… is attributable to vehicle use,” said Snow.

Representative Jack Draxler (Republican – North Logan) spoke in favor of the HB 74, saying that “[w]hen you a have a vehicle that has virtually zero emissions, you need to do what you can as a state to encourage these vehicles. They do cost much more to the consumer and if we can help incentivize their acquiring these vehicles with a relatively modest tax credit,” said Draxler, “I think we owe it to our people, in terms of clean air, to do so.” Draxler emphasized that Utah must take any and all measures to enhance Utah’s air quality.

Representative David Lifferth (Republican – Eagle Mountain) spoke in opposition of the bill, saying that he felt that tax incentives were not necessary for people to purchase the car. Lifferth, an owner of the Chevrolet Volt, said that while the bill had good intentions, he was a currently leasing his car and did not qualify for the incentive as the bill currently stands. Lifferth said HB 74 was a way for the government to “pick winners and losers.” “I think good ideas should stand on their own,” said Lifferth, citing the iPhone as an example  of a quality, unsubsidized product.

Representative Brian King (Democrat – Salt Lake City) added, “We’ve got a lot of clean energy bills and I’m not going to stand in support of all of them, they should all be judged on their own merits, but I want to say this: We’ve gotten a lot of information from our constituents about the importance of clean air, and rightly so.” King praised the House for their support of clean air legislation, and said that the legislative body should do all that it could to ensure that air quality is improved.

Some members were concerned with the need for a state incentive, as currently there is already a $7,500 federal tax incentive for the purchase of clean energy vehicles. Others were concerned over the overall burden the bill (and other bills) would affect businesses in places like Carbon county that rely on jobs from the coal industry. Another issue that was addressed was the fact that most low income households cannot afford clean emission cars and that the focus should be on reducing emissions in the heating of houses.

After rigorous debate, the bill passed and will now be sent to the Senate for further consideration. HB 74 is seen as companion legislation to Senator Wayne Harper’s SB 139, which increases the registration fees for non-traditional vehicles. That legislation has been sitting in the Senate for two weeks as Harper continues to work on the bill.

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