Turner/Buono Measure Would Encourage New Jersey Drivers To Purchase More Efficient Vehicles

TRENTON – The Senate Environment Committee approved legislation today sponsored by Senators Shirley Turner and Barbara Buono that would create tax incentives to encourage the purchase of more fuel efficient vehicles.

“We can no longer afford to have gas-guzzlers crowding our roads,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “And now that technologies such as hybrid engines and fuel cells are readily available, we should no longer accept it, either. New Jersey will become a national leader in the number of fuel efficient cars on our roads.”

“If we want to tackle the problems of global warming, then we need to become far less dependent on oil and other fossil fuels,” added Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Automobiles are one of the biggest sources of green house gases in the United States, but through the widespread adoption of hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles, we can greatly reduce those emissions.”

Under the bill, S-749, vehicles certified in California as zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) and advanced technology partial zero emission vehicles (AT PZEVs) would be exempt from the sales tax. Most hybrids, as well as cars powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) and fuel cells, would qualify for this exemption.

“In just the past few years, the popularity of hybrid vehicles has skyrocketed,” added Senator Buono. “Eliminating the sales tax from these cars and trucks will help to make them available for all New Jersey residents and send a message to auto makers that hybrid engines should be standard and not just a luxury feature.”

Senator Turner also explained that, “This incentive will cost the state nothing, since we are off setting it by increasing the gas guzzler surcharge. The costs of promoting a cleaner environment will be paid by those who choose to make it dirty.”

The bill would also amend the current gas guzzler surcharge so that each year the Treasurer would establish the amount of the surcharge to create sufficient revenue to fund the tax incentive portion of the bill. The Treasurer would project the cost of the tax incentive program and the number of gas guzzlers to be sold in the state and would set the surcharge accordingly.

The surcharge would apply to all vehicles that would fall under the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards, which is the least stringent emission standard under the current California and 2009 New Jersey clean car guidelines. If the surcharge is ever projected to exceed $1000, the Treasurer would expand the pool of vehicles subject to the surcharge to include Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) vehicles. The LEV category currently includes primarily the heavier trucks, SUVs and vans while ULEVs are also primarily trucks, SUVs and vans.

“We’ve all been hit hard by the spike in gas prices over the past few years. Since I doubt we’ll ever see those prices go back down substantially, we need to begin to do more to make sure we simply use less gas and hybrids are guaranteed to do just that,” explained Senator Turner.

Senator Buono also noted that the incentives and disincentives would be timed to take effect on January 1, 2009, the date for implementation of the California low emission vehicle program in New Jersey.

“The road to energy independence and a clean environment is long, but our children and grandchildren will thank us for beginning the journey now,” added Senator Buono.

The bill passed by a vote of 3-1 and now goes on to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for their review.