Palm Beach County gas tax collections running on E as electric cars become more popular
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As fuel demand drops, local governments may have to reevaluate the way they fund road repairs.

Palm Beach County officials are cautioning lawmakers about a bump in the road resulting from a federal priority to replace gas-powered vehicles with electric. Gas tax collections for roads aren’t keeping up with costs.

Between 2011 and 2022, the amount of gas taxes collected for Palm Beach County’s local road repair and maintenance increased 11%, but would have had to increase by millions more (or 3.2%) to even keep pace with the Consumer Price Index, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The problem is evident at the state level as well, although not quite as pronounced. Even though the state’s population increased by 10% in that time, total fuel tax collections between 2011 and 2021 only increased by about 15.5%. That didn’t keep pace with basic inflation and road construction costs generally increase a lot faster than that.

The gas tax was designed as a fee for using roads, but it’s now not producing in the way it was envisioned, said Edward Chase, the county’s director of intergovernmental affairs and community engagement. It’s part of the unintended consequence resulting from less dependence on gas, he said.

“We’re seeing an increased market share for electric vehicles that are of course not contributing,” Chase said. “And you know, thankfully, in a good way, cars are getting much more efficient in the amount of fuel that they use … (but) it doesn’t allow us to move as quickly to address some of the congestion we’re seeing.”

It’s likely a problem that’s going to get worse. Motorists get federal tax incentives for buying electric cars. And President Joe Biden set a goal to reach 50% of electric vehicle sales by 2030 as he unveiled plans to build a network of charging stations.

Right now, electric-powered cars account for less than 2% of all vehicle sales, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Palm Beach County officials were asking the delegation last week to get ahead of the problem and find some alternative to gas taxes to fund road repairs.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth said he knows about the problem firsthand. He hasn’t paid a gas tax since he started driving his electric-powered car six years ago.

He said that it’s an issue not many people are eager to talk about, since it will likely mean lessening dependence on gas taxes and converting to some sort of user fee based on miles driven.

“There will be a day of reckoning,” he predicted.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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