Martin Hawver
Guest columnist
Every now and again, we inhabitants of the Kansas Statehouse thumb through the newly introduced bills and find one that just floors us.
It happened again last week. For you folks who may have seen ads for those battery-powered cars and are thinking they might be just fine around town for the trip to the liquor store, or to get a haircut or maybe just to and from the office, this bill is about you.
The idea behind those battery cars, of course, is to save gasoline, and by implication, pandas, dolphins, and those little beetles in Nebraska that forced the detour of the now-on-hold-anyway Keystone pipeline.
The idea: Save energy and be cool without having to wear those $100 Birkenstock sandals out of the yard.
Well, all that thinking about how cool a rechargeable car might be—and how they are small enough that you wouldn’t mind your kids going on a car date in one—just might become a little more complicated and expensive in Kansas.
It comes down to the streets and highways on which you might drive that battery-powered car.
If you drive a conventional car, you pay a tax of 24 cents a gallon on the gasoline that propels it down the highway.
If you drive a diesel you pay 26 cents a gallon in tax on the fuel. It goes to the Kansas Department of Transportation and pays for operating the agency which builds, repairs and plows the snow off the highways we use.
But that circle of funding would grow with passage of a House bill that creates an “electricity highway fee” on—you guessed it—the electricity that is used to recharge your car.
If you just recharge your car in the garage every night, the bill requires that you get a special electric meter to measure how much electricity you are pumping, or whatever you call it, into the car.
With any luck, you can get the meter installed where your spouse told you to hang the rakes, so you can “go further green” and let the leaves just rot on your yard or  hope they’ll blow onto your neighbor’s property.
If you plug into a “motor vehicle electric recharge station” at your office or a hotel or a fancy parking lot, whoever runs that station keeps track of how much electricity you use to fill up the car with electricity.
Anyone ever think it would get that complicated?
Or, that the Kansas Department of Transportation would overlook a new revenue source from people who use anything more complex than shoes to travel on the highways? Of course not. (Wait! KDOT gets a sliver of the state sales tax, so we guess they are taxing Kansas-bought shoes, too.)
Nope, the rates aren’t set yet, and the Kansas Department of Transportation will come up with the number that is supposed to be “comparable to the motor fuel tax.”
The Kansas Corporation Commission has to sign off on that figure.
If there’s an upside to any of this, it’s that from what we’ve seen, those plug-ins for electric cars are funny-shaped, especially for cars. At least you won’t wind up plugging something into the recharging station that.
You don’t want the meter-reader to know about…
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this statewide political news service, visit the website at