SB 6586, a measure sponsored by Senate Transportation Vice Chair Rebecca Saldaña (D-37) that creates a road usage charge (RUC) program for electric and hybrid vehicles, cleared that committee Feb. 10.
The revised bill eliminates per-mile rates for both electric and hybrid vehicles to be either set by future legislation or, if no rate is set by the legislature prior to the program’s implementation, based on recommendations from the Washington State Transportation Commission (WTSC).
The bill is seen as an initial transition away from the use of the state gas tax to fund highway projects. Although revenue is currently stable and expected to remain so through the decade, it is expected at some point to gradually decrease due to improved vehicle fuel efficiency. SB 6586 directs the Department of Licensing (DOL) and WSTC to come up with an RUC plan by December 2021 to implement beginning in 2024.
In the original bill, the rates would have been $.035 and $.02 per mile for electric and hybrid cars, respectively, which are different than those that were used in WSTC’s pilot program involving 2,000 participants throughout the state.
Saldaña told colleagues prior to the Feb. 10 vote that the change will give DOL and WTSC the opportunity “to really dig in, to propose what it really would be. When that happens, the current fees that many feel are unfair for EVs and our hybrids will drop away.”
Chair Steve Hobbs (D-44) voiced support for the bill. “We do need to pay for the roads, and this is a way to do it. Hopefully electric vehicles and hybrids will pay something that is more in line with what they’re actually doing to the road.”
Legislators opposed to the bill highlighted issues such as collection costs and the disproportionate impact to rural drivers.
“We still have some concern on our side,” said Ranking Member Curtis King (R-14). “There needs to be more discussion about how this is collected…before we really start to implement this sort of thing.”
Sen. Dean Takko (D-19) was also opposed, stating ongoing “concerns about how road usage charges are going to affect us (rural residents).”
The bill has not yet been assigned to another committee.