ITD: Despite Keough bill, no refunds for hybrid-car drivers

ITD: Despite Keough bill, no refunds for hybrid-car drivers

by
Dustin Hurst
February 23, 2016
Dustin Hurst
Author Image
February 23, 2016

When Idaho residents who violate government rules, regulations or laws, they usually have to serve jail time or pay a financial penalty.

When the government makes a mistake, well, the residents must also pay for that.

Such is the case of the hybrid-car fee in Idaho. Despite one Idaho state senator admitting the Legislature made a mistake by enacting the fee, drivers are not entitled to any sort of refund.

On the 2015 legislative session’s final day, lawmakers approved a $95 million gas tax and fee hike package to fund road and bridge repairs. That package, hammered out in a contentious conference committee during the session’s final days, included a 7-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, along with a $140 registration fee tacked on to electric car registrations plus a hybrid-car registration fee of $75.

The bill also added a $20 fee on top of all other car and light truck registrations.

This year, though, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, admitted the Legislature made a mistake by enacting the hybrid fee.

Keough said she and other legislators didn’t have a good, evidence-based foundation in 2015 to assess the fee, which sought to capture money from high-mileage cars that don’t pay much in gas taxes at the pump but use a lot of road. After researching how the Legislature determined the hybrid fee, Keough decided to address the issue.

“I’d like to think it’s refreshing when a government official admits making a mistake,” Keough told the panel during last week’s committee presentation.

Though a mistake, according to the Idaho Transportation Department hybrid-car drivers who paid the fee get won’t get a $75 refund.

“Technically, [the fee] was the law when they registered their vehicle,” Steve Grant, an ITD communication officer told IdahoReporter.com.

The Senate could, if it wanted, grant a refund. “Refunds would require additional legislative action,” Grant explained.
Keough didn’t answer an email on the issue.

If the bill to rescind the hybrid-car fee clears the Legislature and wins Gov. Butch Otter’s approval, it would reduce road and bridge funding by more than $1 million annually.
The state would take the larger hit of the reduction. Keough’s bill would reduce ITD funding about $600,000. Local highway districts would lose the rest.

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