General Assembly approves electric vehicle rebate program but leaves it unfunded

General Assembly approves electric vehicle rebate program but leaves it unfunded
Electric car charging station (Source: Virginia Mercury)

While Virginia’s General Assembly has committed to adopt stricter transportation emissions standards by 2025 that will encourage more widespread use of electric vehicles, lawmakers’ final budget includes no funding for a rebate program intended to bring down the vehicles’ cost for consumers.

“We were hoping to get money in there now,” said Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, who served as patron of the bill creating the rebate program and had sought $5 million in funding for its first year. However, he said that from the beginning of the legislative process, he had “been trying to set the right expectations that in the current fiscal climate we might be able to get the bill through, but there might not be funding right away.”

Reid’s proposal to create the rebate program passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate on the last day of the legislative session after lengthy negotiations.

In its final form, the program, which would begin Jan. 1, 2022,  would offer buyers a $2,500 rebate for the purchase of a new or used electric vehicle. An “enhanced rebate” of $2,000 would also be available to buyers whose household income is less than 300 percent of current poverty guidelines.

An earlier version of the budget passed by the House of Delegates included Reid’s requested $5 million in funds for the program, although the Senate’s version did not. The final budget that emerged from negotiations between the two chambers last week eliminated rebate funding altogether.

The decision met with consternation from the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, which had provided critical support earlier in the session for the passage of the bill by Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, establishing stricter transportation emissions standards, often referred to as the clean car or California standards.

“You have to put your money where the mandate is. We are greatly frustrated that the very body that voted to support House Bill 1965, which is a mandate and represents a sea change for Virginia, has now said they are not interested in funding it or any of the related legislation,” said Don Hall, president and CEO of the Auto Dealers Association.

“If Virginia isn’t interested in making a real commitment to electric vehicles and a cleaner future, then it has a responsibility to pull out of” the California standards, he added.