Ironically, news coverage of the Legislature's rollback of the costly and ineffective tax credit alerted dealers and buyers to the program, generating a rush to take advantage of it.
It was an irresistible pitch: up to $7,500 off the taxes you owe the state just for buying a loosely defined "alternative fuel vehicle" that burned regular old gasoline, and not natural gas.
Additionally, the credit could be spread over several years for those with insufficient tax liability to fully consume the tax credit in one year.
State Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow says it has cost the treasury $30 million to date in alternative fuel tax credits for tax year 2011 and 2012, but total claims for sales between January 2011 and April 14, when the program expired, could reach $100 million.
"Flex fuel vehicles are widely available and ultimately that became a budget problem," Muchow told MetroNews. "Very little credit has actually gone out to natural gas vehicles, but about 95 percent of the cost so far (of the tax credit) has been for flex fuel vehicles."
The surge of applications for the tax credit before it expired has contributed to a significant drop in personal income tax collections, which resulted in the state missing revenue collection estimates for the first month of the new fiscal year by $18 million.
West Virginia still has a tax credit for natural gas powered vehicles. Even that is questionable because of the inherent economic unfairness of the government favoring one industry over another.
At least the ill-conceived flex fuel credit is gone, but not before costing the state millions.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.