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

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

Dustin Hurst
February 23, 2016
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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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