by: Jim Strickland Updated:
ALPHARETTA, Ga. - An Alpharetta lawmaker says the state should quit paying people to drive electric cars.
Republican Rep. Chuck Martin has introduced a bill to end a popular tax incentive April 1.
A Chamblee Nissan store claims to sell more of the Leaf electric car than any single dealership in the country. The owner is wondering why Martin wants to kill the tax break that makes those sales possible.
"It's not an entitlement program. It basically is an incentive to the Georgia taxpayer to change driving habits and stop polluting the atmosphere," said dealer Pat Hoban.
"Saudi Arabia does not send electricity to me, it comes from Georgia Power," said Leaf driver John Ernst.
Curbing use of foreign oil is one reason Ernst bought an electric car. The $5,000 state income tax incentive is another.
"That credit is too targeted, too rich and too open ended," said Martin.
The credit has been on the books since the 1990s. Five thousand dollars, even on a lease, is one of the richest state incentives in the country. A federal tax credit of $7,500 is available is well.
"Multiple other states are trying to emulate Georgia because we're doing something right. Why kill something that we're doing something right with?" asked Ernst.
Martin said the credit means taxpayers basically help foot the bill so drivers of electric cars can enjoy a nearly free ride.
“There's a certain model of car that you can get on a two-year lease essentially for almost free," said Martin, speaking of the Nissan Leaf.
Driver JD Clockadale doesn't debate Martin's math.
"So you're driving that car for between 10 and 20 bucks a month, you believe?" asked Channel 2's Jim Strickland.
"It's close to a free car," said Clockadale.
Dealer Hoban said the Leaf has helped double his business. He said two full-time jobs at his store are directly tied to its success. Hoban is hoping Martin will see the tax break as an investment, not a drain on state coffers.
Martin said he's willing to consider tweaking the legislation, perhaps to limit the number of vehicles that qualify for the credit or to phase out the credit over time. He said his current version of the bill did do one thing. It started the conversation.