Higher Oregon vehicle registration, title and trip permit fees based on better fuel efficiency will take effect Jan. 1, according to a press release.

Under this transportation funding package, passed by the Legislature in 2017, passenger vehicle registration fees will be based largely on the vehicle’s fuel efficiency rating. Drivers of more-efficient vehicles will pay more to register and renew their tags so they contribute more for use of the roads. That’s because these drivers are contributing much less (or nothing) in fuels tax while driving just as much.

Several Wallowa County residents shared their thoughts on the state’s plans and most thought it unfair to tax drivers of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“I don’t think innovative technology should be penalized,” Nancy Greene, of Enterprise, said.

She and her husband drive a 2005 Toyota Prius that gets 45 to 50 mpg on the highway and 40 around town, so they’ll be among those hit hardest by the state’s new fees.

“I don’t think it’s very forward-thinking,” Greene said. “It’ll discourage people from driving fuel-efficient vehicles.”

She also said it will be harmful to the local economy.

“I think the money saved should be spent locally,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s right,” 91-year-old Joan Shurts said. “It’s mostly us older people who drive those.”

She drives a 1999 Volkswagen that gets about 34 mpg but is rated for 49 mpg on the highway.

“If someone wants a car that goes fast and gets less mileage, it’s up to them,” she said.

Doug Pollock, of Joseph, drives a 2017 Toyota Rav4 that’s rated at 30 mpg.

“I think they ought to put a tax on bikes,” he said. “We spend all these millions on bike trails and what do they pay?”

Thomas Harrington, of Imnaha, said the move is counterproductive to efforts to get people to use less fuel.

“That’s backward,” he said. “They should be rewarded.”

Enterprise’s two auto dealerships didn’t believe the tax hike would hurt sales of fuel-efficient vehicles primarily because so few are sold in Wallowa County.

Doug Crow, of Main Street Motors, said he’s been operating the business seven years and has yet to sell a hybrid and only sold one electric vehicle. Terry Decker, of Milligan Motors, is in the same position, never having sold either, which are often considered impractical in Wallowa County.

“Most people want something that’ll get around in the snow,” Decker said.

He also said most families want vans or SUVs and farmers and ranchers want work trucks, neither of which will be penalized under the new state licensing plan.

Drivers of electric vehicles and passenger cars that get 40 miles per gallon or better will have a choice. They can pay a full fee for two or four years up front, or they can pay a lower fee and a monthly per-mile charge for miles driven in Oregon if they join OReGO.

OReGO is a state program devised to help replace diminishing revenue from fuel taxes because of higher-mileage vehicles. The taxes are used to maintain roads in the state.

Two-year registrations for most passenger vehicles rated at zero to 19 mpg are $122 and 20 to 39 mpg are $132. Two-year registrations for high-mileage passenger vehicles not in OReGO rated at 40 or more mph cost $152. Those in OReGO pay $86. Electric vehicles not in OReGO cost $306 to register, while electric vehicles in OReGO cost $86. Four-year registrations for each category are double the two-year cost.

Drivers can compare what they would pay in OReGO versus what they currently pay in gas tax by plugging their car’s mpg rating and the typical number of miles they drive into the OReGO calculator at www.MyOReGO.org/calculator.

Drivers can contact OReGO customer service at 503-986-7827 or myOReGO@odot.state.or.us, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to learn more or for help signing up. The DMV will update its fee information at OregonDMV.com as of Jan. 1.

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