A duel over electric vehicle tax credits, twixt Tim Echols and Chuck Martin

Over at myAJC.com, we’ve got an interesting opinion-page duel over Georgia’s tax credits for electric vehicles, twixt Tim Echols, a Republican member of the Public Service Commission, and state Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta.

A taste of Echols’ piece:

Georgia is second only to California in electric vehicles, but if we are not careful, that silver medal is about to be ripped from our necks.

Legislators led by Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, believe Georgia’s $5,000-per-vehicle state tax credit is simply too generous. In the 2014 General Assembly, Martin’s bill to drastically cut the tax credit for these cars passed the House of Representatives only to die in the Senate on the session’s last day....

One of Echols' several arguments for continued tax credits:

...The tax credit is spent in Georgia. Remember, the person who buys or leases one of these cars take some risks because an electric car has many limitations; I know this from personal experience. The tax credit has been an effective incentive at getting Georgians to take the chance. And when they get that $5,000 back after filing their tax returns, they often spend it on consumer goods, home improvement projects, a vacation or college tuition, or they just put the money in the bank for a rainy day. Folks spending money helps local businesses.

Here’s a first portion of Martin’s answer:

Would the average Georgian support a taxpayer-funded program that provides a nearly free car to a narrow group of mostly in-town citizens? Most Georgians would be shocked to learn such a program exists: the state alternative fuel tax credit, passed in 1998.

This month, I will introduce legislation to revise, reduce and provide for a phased elimination of this credit. Last year’s bill passed the House twice but failed in the Senate. In 2015, this peculiar credit will cost the state approximately $50 million, based on the number of cars purchased in 2014. Over the next 20 years, the state is predicted provide over $1 billion to the recipients of this credit.

Who are the recipients of this credit? Approximately 18,000 to 20,000 in number by the end of 2014, they largely lease a Nissan Leaf. Hybrids such as the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and the Chevy Volt are excluded, even though data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy shows the Toyota actually produces fewer pounds of CO2 emissions each year, and the Chevy is comparable to the Leaf.

How lucrative is the credit to its recipients? Multiple articles, testimonials and even advertisements from local dealers point out that a person can drive a Nissan Leaf on a 2-year lease for “almost nothing” after applying a $7,500 federal credit and taking a $5,000 state credit....

About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.