NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Department of Transportation is tackling $26 billion in infrastructure improvements.
"We're at a very critical juncture in where we are and where we're headed," said transportation commissioner Butch Eley during a recent event.
Among its funding ideas, the department is turning to electric vehicle owners for help.
"What that means is everybody paying the same thing," Eley said.
He said drivers with gas-powered cars pay about $300 in gas taxes annually. Now, he is proposing drivers with an electric vehicle pay the same.
"So right now EV owners pay a $100 registration fee and that would be elevated," said Eley.
The new fee would be in addition to traditional fees drivers already pay. The increase could make it the highest of its kind in the country.
This comes as Tennessee continues to attract manufacturers in the EV industry. Just last week LG Energy Solution and General Motors announced a $275 million investment in its Spring Hill battery cell manufacturing operation plant.
"We now are a state that is the center of — in many ways the future of — the automotive industry," Gov. Bill Lee said.
But Tennessee EV driver Joe Ozegovich said the fee could discourage people from going electric.
"I would think we would try to attract more people to get into electric vehicles because if they're going to be manufacturing in the state of Tennessee it's in our interests," he said. "Why would you go against our own interests?"
Commissioner Eley said the state is not interested in raising taxes, but Ozegovich argued the new EV fee is simply unfair.
"An EV owner should not have to be the only ones that are going to see a raise," he said. "They're not proposing a raise in the gas tax, which is not fair."
The proposal will need to be approved by state lawmakers in the next legislative session before it moves forward. Lee said the $300 fee is subject to change as the proposal makes its way through the legislature.