Jay Inslee isn’t alone in his desire to needlessly reward electric vehicle owners. As Shift reported, Inslee’s budget includes a 10-year extension of a sales tax break for electric vehicles. He also proposed a “bill credit on the electronic toll accounts of electric car drivers to cover a yet-to-be-determined number of free ferry trips or toll bridge crossings.”
Oregon is considering similar incentives for electric vehicle owners. Though Oregon does not have a sales tax, a public-private partnership called the Energize Oregon Coalition “has drafted legislation to offer a $3,000 rebate on battery-powered cars.” Oregon Department of Transportation electric car czar Ashley Horvat told KPLU, “In order to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction goals, EVs are a very critical part of that… We’re sort of seeing the adoption (of electric vehicles) plateau. So, we need that additional accelerator to push it beyond the early adopters.”
Inslee and other liberals claim that the sales tax break pushes car purchasers toward electric vehicle options, but the facts indicate otherwise. The Washington Policy Center’s Todd Myers wrote in February, “Even in the best case scenario, two out of three people benefitting from the sales tax break would have purchased the car anyway.” Myers also wrote that the impact of incentives “is probably very small and wastes huge amounts of money for tiny environmental benefit.” Why?
Myer’s analysis proves that “even in the best circumstances,” a sales tax exemption on electric vehicles “costs $136.41 to reduce one ton of carbon.” To put it into perspective, that is “more than ten times the cost to reduce a ton of carbon compared to investing in projects that reduce carbon… Instead of reducing 10 tons of CO2, the state only reduces one.”
Inslee’s push for a sales tax extension on extension—an Oregon’s push for incentives—has little to do with benefitting the environment and a lot to do with political gain at the expensive of working families. As Myers put it, the policy essentially taxes “working families to give tax breaks to people who can afford” an electric car, buyers who “are extremely price insensitive and it is unlikely that any of them would have decided not to buy the car without the sales tax break.”
Electric vehicle incentive policies are not about fighting global warming, they are “political touchstones for politicians who want to appear they are doing something by associating with a cool, new technology.”