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Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Grant Program Proposal To Fund Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Advances In Florida Senate

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is sponsoring a proposal aimed at increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations in Florida by using fees from license taxes to fund a new grant program.
Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) is sponsoring a proposal aimed at increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations in Florida by using fees from license taxes to fund a new grant program.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, sponsored the bill. he says electric vehicle drivers don't pay the gas tax, which funds Florida's transportation infrastructure.

A proposal meant to encourage the construction of more electric vehicle charging stations passed its first committee stop today. It would create a grant program that would allow state agencies, local governments, and more to apply and get funding to develop plans to install the stations. It would also cover the purchase of equipment and the cost of installation.

The grants would be paid for by a proposed increase in license taxes for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), says the fees are needed because electric vehicle drivers don't pay the gas tax, which funds Florida's transportation infrastructure.

"So, we have to look for another more elegant solution in order to bring in revenue from these vehicles that use our roads just like the internal combustion engine vehicles use the roads," Brandes says.

Brandes says the fees outlined in his bill are middle-of-the-road amounts compared to other states.

"Some states are at $250 per vehicle. We delineate based on weight," Brandes says.

For electric vehicles, less than 10,000 pounds, such as the Tesla, drivers would pay an additional $135 flat fee. Beginning in January 2025, it would hop up to $150. Fees for vehicles more than 10,000 pounds are higher, and plug-in hybrid cars, like the Chevrolet Volt, would pay far less.

"We're certainly, myself and the club, are in support of license fees for [electric vehicles]," Nick Howe, Vice President of the club Florida Tesla Enthusiasts, says. "We want to make sure that we pay our fair share. We're certainly not looking for any kind of free ride."

But Howe says the fixed fees aren't fair because it doesn't reflect how people are using their cars.

"If you're using your vehicle to undergo a few hundred miles a month, why should you be paying as much as someone who's doing more than a thousand miles a month," Howe says.

Howe says a better solution is to charge people based on their usage. It's something Sen. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach) posed to Brandes during a meeting on his bill:

"I've seen a couple of different analyses where they ask instead that the EV be taxed on the annual vehicle miles traveled. Have you considered using those formulas instead of a flat fee?"

Brandes says he has considered that, but he says no other state charges electric car drivers based on usage.

"The one challenge that you have in Florida is the gas tax is really efficient for us to collect. We don't collect it from every gas station. We collect it from the distributors, and there's only a handful of distributors, versus every single [electric vehicle] owner having to collect directly from them," Brandes says.

Brandes says the cost of collecting the tax from every electric vehicle owner would burden the state. His bill expires the fees in 2030. Brandes says he expects by then; lawmakers will need to make changes.

Copyright 2021 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

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