(BIVN) – State Senator Russell Ruderman was one of only two votes in opposition to a bill that will create a fee to register electric vehicles in Hawaiʻi.
Senate Bill 409 SD2 “establishes an annual vehicle registration surcharge fee for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, and hybrid vehicles to be deposited into the state highway fund.” The fee would amount to $15, and would be paid in addition to the annual $45 vehicle registration fee.
While electric vehicles are expected to become more common in Hawaiʻi, the cars “use either less or no fuel, they are not subject to, or pay less in, fuel taxes,” a senate committee report stated. “Fuel taxes are an important source of revenue for the Department of Transportation to fund the repair and maintenance of Hawaii’s roads. As these types of vehicles still inflict wear and tear on public roads, this measure ensures that all vehicle owners share responsibility and contribute to the upkeep of Hawaii’s highway infrastructure.”
From the senate floor, Ruderman said Hawaiʻi has a “special role to play in the establishment of electric vehicles, because we have shorter distances to drive, we have solar all year that we can charge our cars or get electricity to the grid without fossil fuels, we’re the richest state in the richest country.”
“But now, we’re going to put the brakes on supporting the transition, now that we have 2.5 percent of our cars are electric vehicles and almost four percent are hybrids. We’re gonna put the brakes because road fees are more important than climate change?” Ruderman asked.
“It’s been said that electric vehicles need to pay their fair share because they’re so heavy and they do damage to the roads,” Ruderman continued. “An electric vehicle is lighter than the average SUV. It’s much lighter than an empty pickup truck. Road damage has an exponential relationship to the weight of a vehicle. 90% percent of the damage to roads comes from the heaviest truck that goes down that day. 9% percent comes from the second heaviest vehicle that goes down it, and 1% percent comes from all the other vehicles put together. It’s not a good reason to do this.”
“This is not about my car,” Ruderman admitted. “I have an electric vehicle, yes. I’ve also got a pickup truck on the Big Island. I’m gonna buy another electric vehicle anyway, even if you’re penalizing me for it.”
Ruderman said that last year he bought his second Nissan Leaf. “You might say I turned over a new Leaf,” the senator joked.
“I realize that most of you folks today are not gonna change your vote based on what I say today, but I’m asking you that next time we’re faced with the decision whether to take action on the greatest crisis facing our generation, or not, that you turn over a new leaf and prioritize climate change as a matter of public policy,” Ruderman said.
Another senator from Hawaiʻi Island, Lorraine Inouye, spoke in support of the measure.
“I agree that we are changing our method of transportation throughout the state,” stated Sen. Inouye, who said she drives a gas car. “However, the increase in $15 dollars, I believe, is not too much of an increase considering the cost of the car.”
“Our roads need to be fixed and I believe our vehicles, our hybrids, must pay their fair share,” Inouye said.
SB 409 passed third reading with Senators Ruderman and Donna Mercado Kim voting against the bill. It now goes to the Hawaiʻi State House.