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WGLT, an NPR station in central Illinois, is following every move at the Rivian manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois. The electric vehicle startup has gone from stealth mode to big-time player in the auto world, attracting attention (and big money) from companies like Ford and Amazon.

Lawmaker: Electric Vehicle Fee Hike Would Hurt Rivian

Skillicorn at a podium
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, a Republican from Crystal Lake, speaks at a press conference Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Springfield.

A state lawmaker is using Rivian to attack a plan to raise electric-vehicle registration fees to fund part of a massive infrastructure spending program.

A Senate Democratic version of the capital bill released in early May would raise EV fees from $17 a year to $1,000 a year—around 60 times higher.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, a Republican from Crystal Lake, said that will hurt EV companies like Rivian, which plans to begin making electric SUVs and pickups in Normal next year. Rivian plans to spend $400 million to retool the former Mitsubishi Motors plant for vehicle and battery production, aided by local and state tax breaks. The company has promised to hire 1,000 workers in Normal by 2024, which would make it one of McLean County’s Top 10 largest employers.

“What is Illinois trying to do? Are we trying to drive someone that’s done a $400 million investment, rehabbing the Normal community, by driving them out with a $1,000 fee per year per vehicle? That’s excessive and it’s punitive,” Skillicorn said during a Wednesday press conference.

The $1,000 fee is hardly a done deal. Gov. JB Pritzker’s own $41 billion infrastructure plan, unveiled last week, includes a more modest $250-a-year registration fee for EVs. That would generate around $4 million in new annual revenue, according to a Pritzker administration document.

Rivian spokesperson Michael McHale said the EV fee proposals are unfair.

“EVs cause significantly fewer negative impacts to society and the environment versus gasoline vehicles,” McHale said. “However we recognize that EV owners should contribute to road maintenance, as should all road users. Figures suggest that the average gasoline vehicle user contributes $135 per year from gasoline taxes to road maintenance. Therefore charging EV owners $1,000 is incredibly inappropriate and disproportionate to their effect.

“Even under the new proposal, gasoline-powered cars will pay only $225/year in gasoline taxes. Imposing fees on EVs that are over 400% more than their gasoline powered counterparts is not only unfair, it discourages promising new technology that will reduce our dependence on petroleum, reduce emissions, and promote the Illinois economy,” McHale added.

The EV fees are just one of many funding sources for a capital bill. Pritzker’s plan would also double the motor fuel tax, to 38 cents per gallon to fill up the tank, and registering a car less than three years old would cost $199 a year, up from $100. There would be new taxes on ride-sharing — $1 per trip statewide — and a 7% assessment on cable, satellite and streaming services.

It would be the first large public-works proposals since the $31 billion “Illinois Jobs Now” plan under Gov. Pat Quinn in 2009.

In a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Pritzker said Illinois’ roads and bridges are crumbling. He said it’s partly an economic development issue.

“We have to maintain and upgrade that infrastructure, because it attracts more distribution centers. It attracts more manufacturers who want to get their goods to market. That’s a big push for infrastructure. It’s been 10 years,” Pritzker said.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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