For a while there, North Carolina had progressives fooled. In 2008, its voters pulled the chain for President Obama (even if by a very narrow minority). The popular showDawson’s Creek was filmed there. The ever-expanding Research Triangle drew thousands of out-of-staters who brought their Northeast modes of consumption and values.

But in recent years, the state has taken a few steps backward. Last fall, North Carolina reverted to form and voted for Mitt Romney. Voters also swept Republicans into the governorship and control of the state legislature. And they’ve set aboutslashing unemployment benefits, and taking a host of other nonprogressive actions. As Mary Curtis notes in The Washington Post, the new regime’s agenda has included: “the decision to reject federal funds to expand Medicaid, the reduction of state unemployment benefits, proposals that would cut funding from public education and provide vouchers for private schools, a voter ID bill, and efforts to restart the death penalty and repeal North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act.”

Now North Carolina’s legislators are going after another progressive favorite: hybrid cars.

What? The state Senate has passed a measure that would single out hybrid and electric car drivers for special treatment. (The House will consider the measure but hasn’t acted yet.) Here’s the reasoning. The state relies on gas taxes to fund highway construction. But gas consumption has been falling, in part because the American auto fleet has been getting more efficient. In effect, people who drive cars that get 50 miles per gallon are contributing only half as much to the upkeep of roads as people who drive cars that get 25 miles per gallon. And so the North Carolina Senate is suggesting that people who drive hybrids pay an extra $50 for the annual registration fee, and that folks who drive all-electric cars pay an extra $100. This Prius tax would raise about $1.5 million each year.

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