SUV owners are already paying more to fill their tanks at the pump. Now, in Massachusetts, they could be forced to pay even more just to hit the road, charged a higher fee when registering their vehicles.
If implemented, the so called 'Hummer Tax' would be the first in the nation.
Tim Lerchenfeldt, general manager of Cadillac Hummer Saab Village, a dealership in Norwwood, argues now is not the time for another fee, when sales are down and the auto industry is struggling.
"It's a penalty for driving an SUV, which currently is not the popular choice. Or you're being penalized for a lifestyle choice, or maybe the fact that you have a large family and you need that size vehicle to put them in and it just doesn't seem fair," said Lerchenfeldt, who adds that a given SUV owner may spend less time on the road and burn less gasoline than a given hybrid car owner.
Under the new proposal, owners of more fuel efficient vehicles would pay less. The ultimate goal of the policy is supposedly to get consumers to buy those instead.
"If you're going to make a choice that's counterproductive for the planet, counterproductive for the state, counterproductive for America, then if you want to make that choice, it's America, you can make that choice, but if you have to pay for it, I think that's fair," said Josh Wright, a Toyota Prius owner who lives in the town of Hanover.
The plan to charge larger gas guzzling vehicles more has the backing of Democratic Governor Deval Patrick who admits there are some kinks to work out, like how to protect larger families from being unfairly impacted. The Governor is calling for a wide array of new fees and taxes to fund and fix the state's ailing transportation system, which he says has suffered more than a decade of neglect.
Among the most controversial elements in the plan, Patrick is calling for a 19 cent increase in the state's gas tax. He is appealing directly to voters, crisscrossing the state and holding town hall style meetings, listening to the fears and concerns of Commonwealth residents.
"For the average driver what we're talking about is the equivalent of a large cup of coffee per week, but still, for some people that's a lot." Patrick said, admitting the choices are hard.
As part of the package, Patrick is promising to streamline the state's transportation bureaucracy and put the breaks on government spending.
"I think a gas tax without the reforms is unacceptable. More to the point, I will veto that bill. But, I think reforms without the new revenue doesn't really get us very far."
The administration estimates that up to 19 billion dollars will be needed over the next 20 years to pay down debt and to maintain and update the Massachusetts transportation system.