Fiscal Conservatives Express Concerns Over Massachusetts’s Electric Truck Rebate Program

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Want to buy an electric truck?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has set aside millions of dollars worth of tax credits for you if you choose to do so. However, fiscal conservatives have urged caution when it comes to the program.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s administration announced via a press release from the state Department of Energy Resources earlier this week that the state will commit $10 million to fund the purchase of electric trucks. It’s an expansion of the Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (known as MOR-EV) announced in June 2020.

The announcement means that heavy-duty truck purchases bought on or after February 16, 2021 will be eligible for a rebate. On the low end, that rebate is worth $7,500. On the high end, it’s worth $90,000 for tractor trailers. The press release states that as time progresses, the value of the rebate will decrease.

Supporters of electricity-powered vehicles say government subsidies are vital to get the industry up and running. Critics wonder if the subsidies will ever end — and why they should be necessary if the technology is financially viable.

Both Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance and Chip Ford of Citizens for Limited Taxation expressed some concerns when it comes to the program.

Craney told NewBostonPost that the Baker administration must be careful that this program doesn’t turn into a handout for big business. 

“Generally speaking, offering tax policy to reward good behavior should be encouraged by state leaders but the state should be very mindful that it should not become a discount for international companies like Amazon and their fleet of trucks,” Craney said in an email message.

Meanwhile, Ford sees the whole ordeal as a waste of money.

“Over the past six years of this program Massachusetts has doled out some $37.7 million in rebates for the purchase of 18,487 ‘zero-emission’ vehicles,” Ford wrote via email. “It seems the Baker administration has realized the only way it can conceivably reach its optimistic goal of 300,000 such vehicles within the next four years will be by giving them away. That’s likely correct, but it’s taxpayers’ money Baker is using for the bribes.  This explains his administration’s need for ever-increasing disguised taxes (e.g., his Transportation & Climate Initiative) to ‘turn the screws’ on motorists whose will they fail to break.”

As of 2019, the average price of an electric car was about $42,000, according to The Car Connection. The web site also noted that, on average, pickup trucks cost $11,000 more than other passenger vehicles.

When asked to comment on concerns that the credit is a handout to the wealthy, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources did not provide NewBostonPost with an on-the-record comment on Wednesday afternoon.

The agency did provide more information about the program. Among other things, it shows that the state offers rebates for electric cars (not trucks) only on cars sold for less than $50,000.

That includes “rebates of up to $2,500 for the purchase or lease of battery electric vehicles and fuel-cell electric vehicles and up to $1,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles,” according to the Department of Energy Resources’ web site.

Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito offered praise for the program in the agency’s press release issued Tuesday, February 16.

In it, Baker said it’s a key step towards reducing carbon emissions in the state.

“The expansion of the successful MOR-EV program to include trucks continues the progress we have made in the Commonwealth to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and make clean transportation more financially viable for residents and businesses,” Baker said in the written statement.Our Administration continues to take action to electrify Massachusetts’ transportation system to combat climate change and meet our ambitious commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.”

Polito argued that the rebates will make electric trucks more affordable to the average consumer.

“Including trucks in the MOR-EV program will offer residents additional affordable clean transportation options and help to lower air pollution across the Commonwealth,” Polito said in the written statement. “Our Administration is committed to ambitious emissions targets and today’s announcement represents another step forward in our efforts as a state towards a clean energy future.”