“We are trying to incentivize alternative energy to the point it reaches critical mass,” said Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs.
The legislation would provide tax credits for vehicles that run off natural gas, propane, hydrogen fuel cells and similar technology. It would not include electric cars, but Zuber said they might be added later in the process.
“We are not trying to pick winners,” said Zuber, who added he wants to include “all viable alternative fuels” in the legislation.
Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, who ended up voting for the legislation, said the bill was picking winners because the owner of a conventional gas station would not get the same tax break as a person who constructed an alternative fuel station.
The legislation passed 117-1 and now goes to the Senate.
Under the legislation, a person who constructed an alternative fuels station could get a state income tax credit of 50 percent – up to $1 million. A person who retrofitted a vehicle to run on an alternative fuel could get the same 50 percent tax credit on the costs.
A person who purchased a new car that runs on alternative fuels could get a 50 percent tax credit on the difference in cost of a conventional vehicle and the green-powered car.
Brown pointed out that people already were buying those cars without the incentive so, in fact, the incentive was taking money out of the general fund.
“This is not pie in the sky technology,” Zuber said. “We are at a point where we feel this legislation could help this industry. That is good economics, good business development. It is good for the environment.”
Other concerns raised in the debate were that if the vehicles caught on and gasoline use decreased, that would reduce funds for highway construction since it is funded with a tax on traditional motor fuels.
But in the end, the combination of environmental concerns and the prospect of a new market for cheaper natural gas, which Mississippi has in abundance, carried the day.