‘Prius tax’ foes urge McDonnell to kill it

RICHMOND — Two legislators from Northern Virginia — one a hybrid car owner, the other a wannabe — traveled to Richmond on Monday to deliver a petition against $100-a-year fee on alternative-fuel vehicles.

Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) and Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) delivered 6,845 signatures to the office of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), calling on him to amend the General Assembly’s $1.4 billion-a-year transportation funding overhaul to eliminate the fee.

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Surovell and Ebbin said the fee, which would apply to electric mopeds as well as automobiles, is contrary to the goals of improving the environment and lessening dependence on foreign oil. It would generate about $10 million in fiscal 2014.

“Those hybrid owners are doing the right thing,” Ebbin said.

McDonnell included the fee in the transportation bill he proposed to the General Assembly. The legislature revamped the measure almost entirely, but the so-called Prius tax made it into the final bill.

McDonnell has said the fee is a matter of basic fairness, because alternative-fuel vehicles cause wear-and-tear on the roads just like any other car, but their owners contribute little or nothing for their upkeep through the gas tax.

Surovell conceded that some hybrid owners do pay less in gas taxes over the year, but it’s more like $30 a year less, not $100. He also noted that hybrid owners are already paying a premium for their vehicles, and they pay higher car titling and personal property taxes.

“A lot of people feel this is a tax on virtue,” Surovell said. ... “What are gonna tax next, non-smokers?”

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor is reviewing the bill.

“We appreciate the input from these lawmakers and those who signed the petition,” Martin said.

With 82 percent of the commonwealth’s hybrids registered in Northern Virginia, Surovell suggested that McDonnell was singling out the heavily Democratic region. McDonnell has said he is not trying to punish owners of alternative-fuel vehicles, noting that he has worked to convert the state vehicle fleet to natural gas.

Before crossing Capitol Square with a cardboard box filled with their online petition signatures, Surovell and Ebbin addressed the media beside two parked Toyota Priuses. Asked what they drive, Surovell said he had a Honda Civic hybrid. Ebbin said he he wanted to buy a Prius, but they were out of stock, so he went with a conventional Toyota Corolla.

Surovell feigned shock: “You won a Democratic primary and you don’t drive a hybrid?”

 
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