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E-buses: Republicans seek delay for ‘mother of all unfunded state mandates’

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(The Center Square) – Delaying a mandate requiring hundreds of school districts to replace fossil fuel powered buses with e-vehicles has been requested of the state by New York Republicans.

State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano called the requirements the “mother of all unfunded state mandates.” State Sen. George Borrello said, “Like so much of the state’s climate agenda, there is no cost-benefit analysis of this mandate or any realistic plan for how to pay for it.”

The mandate, which went into effect in 2022, requires new school bus purchases to be zero emission by 2027 and all school buses in operation to be electric by 2035. Republicans want to push that deadline out to 2045, and examine the results of studies of the e-vehicles’ reliability.

Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, said school officials across the state “are becoming increasingly concerned about the tremendous financial and operational challenges associated with this one-size-fits-all requirement.”

“This mandated conversion will have a price tag in the billions, with New York state taxpayers simply expected to foot the bill,” he said.

Palmesano, R-Corning, said it will ratchet up costs for school districts, and ultimately taxpayers.

“At a time when our state is bleeding billions of dollars because of the migrant crisis and school aid cuts are hitting rural and suburban districts, neither our schools nor our taxpayers can shoulder crushing new costs,” Palmesano said in a statement.

The lawmakers say the upgrades would cost the state and school districts between $8 billion and $15.25 billion more than the cost of replacing them with new diesel buses. Meanwhile, utilities have said the electrical upgrades needed to charge the buses could run as high as $15 billion statewide.

The average new electric school bus costs about $400,000, compared to traditional gas-powered buses which cost around $130,000, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Borrello and other Republicans have filed a bill that would rescind the electric bus mandate and replace it with a state-funded pilot program that would allow schools to test the vehicles.

Another bill would require the state Department of Education to conduct a cost feasibility analysis for each school district before requiring them to comply with the mandate.

Critics of New York’s mandate note that other states with cold winters have been experiencing problems with the charging of the vehicles that limits their reliability. They cite reports that electric buses are “gathering dust” in garages because of mechanical problems and hard to access parts and technical support.

Borrello said while other states are testing the feasibility of electric buses for their regions through pilot programs, New York Democrats “rushed to enact a mandate” without gauging the impact.

“This is a movie we’ve seen before in Albany and it never ends well,” he said.