What to do with a gas tax with so many EVs on the road? Maui eyes a ‘road usage charge’

Maui County Councilmembers are discussing a new charge, based on how much you drive.
Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 7:32 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 12, 2023 at 2:11 AM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When drivers fill up at the pump, they pay a gas tax that goes toward maintaining roads.

However, with more electric vehicles nowadays, that revenue is shrinking.

So, Maui County Councilmembers discussed a new state charge on Tuesday that could also be implemented on the county level.

A road usage charge is a per-mile fee that charges drivers for the miles they drive instead of the number of gallons of fuel they use.

“There are currently three states with a live RUC program — Oregon, Utah and Virginia,” said Mindy Kimura, project manager for the Road Usage Charge project.

She added the governor recently signed a bill designed to make Hawaii the fourth state.

Kimura said the RUC in Hawaii, or HiRUC, would be $0.008 per mile with a cap of $50 per year.

“The idea under a RUC is that the system will pay more equitably as drivers will purely pay for the use of the road, rather than the existing system, where payment is based solely on the driver’s type of vehicle,” she said.

Testimony was overall in support of the project.

“I strongly recommend pursuing this vigorously. I think it’s a much better solution than the gasoline tax,” said Evan Dust.

“If there is a road tax added or a usage tax added, I’m all in support of that, I’d gladly pay it, and I would hope to see the EV taxes that are added on to my registration fall off as a result of that,” said another testifier.

HDOT says that’s one of the first steps.

“The federal government will move on a road usage charge as well, and the worst thing that could happen is that we are behind them,” said HDOT Director Ed Sniffen.

The pilot project begins in 2025.

Kimura said the state plans to monitor the mileage during annual motor vehicle inspections.

“We will be relying on self-reporting through the annual safety check, right? And a lot of people don’t even get a safety check,” said Council Chair Alice Lee. “So, we have to figure out a way to make sure that they pay, right?”

The senior project manager for CDM Smith, a consultant for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, said they are still working on those details.

“Citations are given out for vehicle safety inspection stickers being invalid or out of date, or vehicle registrations being out of date. So, the enforcement will be a little bit different,” said Ging Ging Fernandez.

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