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Getting a free ride: Electric cars skirt around FL gas tax

Posted at 10:00 PM, Nov 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-15 06:23:36-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Electric cars are advertised as being environmental friendly, quiet and low maintenance. But as more drivers trade in their gas guzzlers for a cleaner ride, it could mean big trouble for the state of Florida.

Florida has one of the highest gas taxes in the country. About 36 cents of every gallon goes back to the state to repair the roads you drive on. The only problem right now, is only drivers filling up at the pump are paying for these roads.
Drivers like Miami resident Jack Glottmann are passing the pump and plugging into a Tesla Charging station like the one in Estero.
"I'm heading to Miami right now and I just need to get an extra 100 miles to get there, so that will take me maybe 10 minutes to do that," said Golttmann.
Golttmann switched to a Tesla Model S electric car about 2 years ago. He said he originally did it for environmental reasons, but he believes there's an economic one too.

"They have been subsidized by the government to jump start the technology," said Congressman Francis Rooney.

According to FDOT, Florida has more than 20,000 registered electric cars on the road. While this may sound like a lot, it's actually only a little more than 1% of registered cars in Florida.

"I do think that for a place like Florida where we are so concerned about our environment, our quality of life, that the electric car could offer some opportunities particularly when coupled with a natural gas power plant," said Congressman Rooney.
Electric cars run silent, they don't pollute and don't cost as much to maintain. But the money these cars save drivers could prove costly for FDOT.
"Our budget for this year is 10.3 billion dollars,"said FDOT spokesperson Zach Burch.
More than 10 billion dollars goes towards building and maintaining Florida's roads and every time you fill up you're not only pumping gas into your car, but funneling money to improve roads.
"So it's about 96% of our revenue, our budget goes directly to projects like the upcoming SR-82 project or things on the interstate," said Burch.
FDOT said the typical Florida driver pays $296 a year in gas tax. But if you drive electric, you pay nothing.
"At the end of the day the gas tax is a user fee and it makes sense to me that the users pay for the roads that they are driving on," said Congressman Rooney.
4 In Your Corner spoke with several state and federal lawmakers who believe now is the time to think ahead.

"I would think that we would need to replicate the funding of the gas tax through the funding of some sort of electric car user fee or something like that to put them on the same footing," said Congressman Rooney.

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart chairs the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee and has proposed 3 different solutions. These include more tolls, raising the current gas tax or possibly taxing drivers by the miles they travel. However, there's no plans to implement any of these proposals in the near future.

Yet, Florida lawmakers are wasting no time. Senator Jeff Brandes plans to introduce SB384, asking to review FDOT revenue sources when electric cars make up 2% or more of registered cars in the state.
So if electric turns out to be the future, drivers like Golttmann can drive gas free, but not tax free.