Gas taxes have two objectives:
- Price the external effects of driving--like emissions, congestion, road use/maintenance...
- Raise revenue for other government programs
Sometimes these two objectives conflict. For example, by pricing the external effects of driving, a gas tax makes driving more expensive and leads drivers to seek alternative ways to reduce the cost of driving. Some will seek alternative means of transportation (mass transit, bike), while others will seek more fuel efficient vehicles. Regardless, one result (one might say goal) of a gas tax is less driving and that means potentially less tax revenue. So objective 1) above might conflict with objective 2).
North Carolina is joining a growing number of states raising fees for hybrid and electric car owners to make up for revenue those drivers aren't paying in gas taxes on their fuel-efficient vehicles.
The proposal strikes many owners of alternative-fuel vehicles and some advocacy groups as a wrong-headed approach to balancing energy independence with paying for infrastructure.
But policymakers and some experts argue taxing hybrid and electric vehicle owners is a matter of making sure all drivers help maintain the roads they use and construct new ones.
Experts widely blame dwindling gas-tax revenues on improving fuel efficiency. That's considered an environmental and national security win, but poses issues for infrastructure funding.