State legislators tried again Thursday to renew a tax credit for plug-in hybrid vehicles.
The House had rejected the credits a day earlier by a 67-24 vote. However, some members are now reconsidering their opposition to the bill.
Its sponsor, Rep. Jim Merrill (R-Charleston), purposely voted against his own bill Wednesday so he could take advantage of a House rule to reconsider the vote a day later. Merrill said he thought many of his fellow members were confused about what the legislation contained. Some members admitted they thought the bill offered new tax credits, when it really only extended tax breaks already in existence.
On the House floor, Merrill urged his peers to support the credits, saying they offer an incentive for drivers to move away from gasoline and decrease reliance on foreign oil.
I would encourage you to support a bill that is already on the books and not go backwards. I promise you’re not going to be some “greenie” by supporting this… You’re going to be showing some sort of initiative for getting off foreign oil.
Merrill said government-induced incentives were not unique to hybrids. He pointed out that owners of standard cars, such as large SUVs, have taken advantage of similar breaks.
Rep. B.R. Skelton (R-Pickens) said he didn’t have any problem with green technology, but worried the tax exemption took away state revenue that could otherwise be used for education.
Merrill said only 10 people had taken advantage of the exemption last year, so he does not expect it to have a major impact on state finances. However, Skelton pointed out this was just one of five tax credits the House considered on Wednesday.
A tax credit of $500,000 here, $1 million there, $5 million there. Before too long, you’re talking about real money. We’re moving down that road, I think, a little too fast.
The House will likely debate the credits again next week.