If you live in Georgia and you have $200 available and a family of four, you have a choice.
You could (1) almost get four tickets ticket to Six Flags but only if your children get the discount for literally being too short to ride any of the rides, OR (2) you could pay for one month of leasing a Nissan Leaf plug-in electric automobile...and write that whole payment off on your taxes entirely...and have that carry over to every month for the next two years. That's a free Leaf for two whole years.
In case you don't know, Six Flags is an expensive sweltering theme park in Atlanta (and elsewhere) with rides and crowds and doughy funnel cakes, too many funnel cakes for the number of rides. A Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, is where you put your family of four to go to Six Flags before you suddenly realize that Piedmont Park sure is nice this time of year and if you really still want to see just how much dough you can eat you're way better off just gorging at Flying Biscuit. One is a little over $200 before funnel cakes, and the other is a little less per month before you get it all back in taxes.
Like I said, if you live in Georgia you have a choice.
But only until June.
That's because the 2001 tax credit of up to $5000(!) for the purchase of a new EV (and a mea culpa for 20 years of violating Federal air quality standards) is being replaced. Not with a more modest credit as one might assume, but with something quite the opposite. A $200 annual registration fee, the highest in the nation, on the exact same EVs that get the credit now.
This means that Georgia will go from America's most generous (probably too generous) patron of EV purchasers to it's most egregious and aggressive tax collector on the same group of people, overnight. First to worst baby! Just like the 1991 Altanta Braves...but the opposite.
You might think that a step down or even a complete phasing out over time of the credit would have been a much more palatable move in the state with the highest U.S market share of EVs. But that wouldn't address the central issue of fairness as envisioned by the bill's primary author, Rep. Jay Roberts.
Jay Roberts of Ocilla, GA (a town whose google search result at this time includes a picture of "big boy and mike mike" street fighting) needs funding for his transportation bill. And Mr. Roberts doesn't seem to think it's fair that EV drivers are leaching funding in the form of tax credits all while skirting the road tax entirely by foregoing gasoline.
The solution, therefore, is a thoughtful and deliberate calculation of the EV buyer's fair share of the road tax. Or as Roberts puts it..."fuzzy math"
Honestly, Roberts is being generous with the term, because put into words this math sounds about as "fuzzy" and cuddly as a dread lock caught in a weed eater. Quoting from the AJC who paraphrases Roberts (emphasis added),
[Jay Roberts] took the average number of miles driven per year, as reported to insurance companies (12,000). He doubled it, because he believes people really drive more like 24,000 miles per year. Next he calculated the fuel taxes someone would pay for driving 24,000 miles per year (about $175 a year, he said). And finally, he rounded that up to $200, he said.
Doubled it!!! AND STILL rounded up!!!
Again, the AJC brings us the numbers, the BIG numbers:
The $5,000 tax credit that goes to consumers who buy or lease an electric car [would have] cost the state $628 million from 2016 through 2020, according to an official state estimate.
HB 122 is not the only piece of legislation to target the tax credit. The same language was added to HB 170*** the bill that House leaders hope will raise more than $1 billion a year in new revenue for transportation projects.
***HB170, which eliminates the $5000 credit and imposes the $200 fee, was signed today.
That's $1 billion with a Big Bold "B".
And do you know which upcoming transportation project costs $1 billion?
Well that would be the cost of re-routing traffic to accommodate the new Atlanta Braves stadium that basically no one wants. Even still, this particular billion is not one that anyone cares to be shy over, seeing as it appears right there on the Braves' page at MLB.com:
More than $1 billion in investments are being made in enhancing the existing roadways near the site. The Georgia Department of Transportation is widening one of the bridges over U.S. 41/Cobb Parkway and is planning to widen the Windy Hill bridge over I-75 and add a diverging diamond interchange at the Windy Hill/I-75 interchange. Plans also call for widening Cobb Parkway from Paces Mill to Akers Mill Road.
If you hate publicly funded stadiums, and you truly care to follow this rabbit hole any deeper, head on over to Deadspin where they recount just how Cobb County, Georgia plans to pay for the stadium, let alone the "enhanced roadways".
Correlation or causation...it still comes down to outcome
Of course, it's necessary to admit at this point that the $1 billion envisioned by the transportation funding bill and the $1 billion needed to "enhance the roadways" around the new baseball stadium could be pure coincidence.
But regardless of if the two are correlated (oh my gah...admit it, they definitely are!), the cause is still the same - the most fertile EV market in America is about to be gutted and cleaned by the same people that enticed it and fed it in the first place.
So, for the first time ever, there is a soft spot in my electric-vehicle-loving heart for car dealerships, particularly those now sitting on a huge steaming piles of Nissan Leafs as the rubble from the Nation's best EV market piles up around them.
How to Succeed in Politics and Life
The most troubling aspect of this, though, is not the elimination of the most generous tax credit around. It's not even that EV buyers will now be compelled to participate in funding the construction and maintenance of roads just like the rest of us gas-burning folks do. It's how Roberts went about achieving the $200 number.
Without any signs to the contrary, he basically let the arrow fly and then painted a bullseye around it. That's how you succeed in politics.
How you succeed in life is to go out and get every last free Leaf there is before the most generous EV tax credit around breaths its last labored breaths. June will be here before you know it and you will wake up from the free electric car dream.