The Oregon Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation and Modernization recently released their long-awaited transportation package, House Bill 2017. The 298 page plan would raise $8.2 billion over ten years to pay for transportation projects. There are a number of promising elements in the package, but also a lot that needs more work.
No Electric Vehicle Rebates
Despite a great deal of interest among Legislators and stakeholders, the current package does not include rebates for electric vehicles, such as those we have proposed in HB 2704. However, this package is evolving in “real time” and now is the moment to show your support for electric vehicle rebates as part of a clean transportation package! Contact members of the Joint Committee now to tell them you believe electric vehicle rebates should be included in the final package and add your name to our Clean Car Pledge today!
Strengthening Alternative Modes
The plan includes a major investment in transit service, which is a good step forward. It also includes modest investments in bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and efforts to make it safer for kids to walk and bike to school. However, the package relies on a sales tax on new bicycles, which may drive sales out of state without generating substantial revenue.
Promoting Congestion Pricing
The package includes language encouraging the use of congestion or “value” pricing, which is a critical tool for managing traffic and increasing efficiency. Attempting to fix “bottlenecks” without a pricing tool is doomed to failure. This is one of the more forward-looking elements of the package, beginning to move our transportation system into the 21st century. Unfortunately, the current package does not have any similar provisions to encourage shared, connected, and autonomous mobility.
Taxing Car Sales
The package includes a sales tax on the sale of new and used vehicles as part of its funding mechanism. This is particularly problematic for electric vehicles, which tend to cost relatively more up front due to their battery packs.
Punishing Drivers of Clean Cars
The legislation includes higher title fees and annual registration fees across the board, but would add additional surcharges of $100 and more annually on highly efficient cars and electric vehicles. These fixed taxes would have nothing to do with actual miles driven or road use, and could wind up making a hybrid or electric vehicle pay more for the roads than a pickup truck. It’s like taxing people who don’t smoke, because they aren’t producing enough cigarette tax revenue to pay for health care.
Expanding Public Purpose Funding
One interesting provision of the package would expand the scope of the Energy Trust of Oregon to include transportation electrification, as well as renewable energy, electric energy efficiency, and other public purposes, and would allow up to about $19.7 million annually to be used for this purpose. Electric vehicles are dramatically more energy efficient than gasoline cars, and can provide a host of grid benefits, so we do believe this is a logical evolution. The package takes a thoughtful approach which leaves flexibility for the Public Utility Commission and the Energy Trust of Oregon to develop programs and projects that will most effectively accelerate transportation electrification over time. However, a number of stakeholders have concerns and questions about how this might work.
Public hearings on HB 2017 are currently scheduled for Tuesday, June 6 and Wednesday, June 7. Forth will be attending with partners and allies to continue pushing for a package that ensures Oregon's transportation will be cleaner, safer and more affordable for all Oregonians!