In an encouraging parting of ways with the more extreme elements of his party in the Legislature, Gov. Greg Gianforte vetoed a bill that would have imposed heavy fees on all-electric vehicles.
House Bill 188 called for annual fees of $195 to $1,300 on electric vehicle depending on their size and load capacity. That would be in addition to the personal property tax all vehicle owners pay when they license their vehicles. The rationale behind HB188 was that all-electric vehicles use no gasoline and therefore their owners pay no gas tax. The revenue from that tax goes into the state highway trust fund and HB188 was an attempt to make all-electric vehicle owners pay into the fund.
Gianforte said he supported the idea of the fee in principle but that what was proposed in the bill were some of the highest electric vehicle fees in the country. In his veto letter, he wrote that 28 states impose such fees, but that most range from $50 to $100.
He said he was particularly concerned about a $375 annual fee for “heavy trucks,” noting that neither existing Montana law nor HB188 defined the term. He feared the fee would be imposed on electric versions of popular pickup trucks.
He noted the auto industry is introducing all-electric versions of many vehicles and feared that onerous fees would discourage consumers from buying the products and manufacturers from making them available in the state.
He added he would support such a measure if it were passed by the next Legislature with more reasonable fees included.
It’s fair to say that, with significant gas, oil and natural gas industries, Montana policy is historically not accommodating to alternative energy sources. Witness the efforts to promote coal-generated electricity in bills proposed during the recently completed legislative session.
It’s hard to know what was behind the exorbitant electric-vehicle fees proposed in HB188, but those fees would clearly discourage the introduction of those vehicles into Montana markets. That would limit choices for Montana consumers, and Gianforte is applauded for recognizing this and rejecting the bill.