Georgia to test program that could replace state gas tax and annual EV fee

In this Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015 photo, Jason Marraccini, of Atlanta, recharges his Nissan electric vehicle at an auto dealership in Roswell, Georgia. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Georgia transportation leaders are trying to figure out how to pay for road building and maintenance as the current funding model is challenged by more efficient vehicles.

Speaking at a State Transportation Board committee meeting on July 19, Josh Waller with the Georgia Department of Transportation said the issue goes beyond electric vehicles to the mileage that hybrids and newer model gas-powered vehicles are getting. The more mileage that cars get, the less gas they need, and therefore less gas tax money goes to the state.

“So that’s creating some challenges, not just here but nationally with that traditional model of how we fund transportation,” he said.

Waller says a federally funded four-month pilot program is set to begin later this year involving 150 volunteers being tracked.

“You have to begin understanding what are the options out there,” he said. “And so I would view this pilot in the prism of fact-finding and understanding.”

“It’s really about the consumer experience,” Waller added. “It’s certainly learning more about technology and how people fare with it.  It’s … helpful, but I think they’re really wanting to understand how people interact with it.”

It’s called a mileage-based user fee. It is a possible solution for moving away from the state’s fuel tax, which is 31 cents a gallon for unleaded, and the annual EV registration fee of $211.

Waller says there will also be general public surveys.

“This is really about gauging attitudes and also the educational process about folks understanding ‘How do you think transportation is funded today? What do you think you pay, in motor fuel tax?’”

“That’s a key component … because today … when you buy gasoline … you don’t see a line for the gas tax because it was prepaid when the distributor sold the gas to the retailer,” Waller added.

Some of the issues brought up during the meeting included how the fee would be collected, data privacy, what to do about driving out-of-state and on private lands, and whether the fee would be fair to those who have already shifted to more gas-efficient vehicles.

Waller notes solutions at the state level could play a role in changes to the 18-cent-a-gallon federal gas tax.

According to the Georgia Department of Revenue, there are about 10.6 million vehicles registered in the state. Some 65,631 are electric.

See Waller’s presentation here.