Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on November 12th, 2008 at 10:57 am
*[UPDATE: I have edited this story to clarify that the bike tax is not, at this time, a part of Governor Kulongoski’s Jobs and Transportation Act.]
According to BTA lobbyist Karl Rohde, the idea — which he stresses is still just a “concept” at this point — was one of the recommendations of the Governor’s Transportation Vision Committee (on which he and BTA director Scott Bricker were a part of).
Governor Kulongoski has not included the bike tax in his Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009 that he announced last week.
The bike tax comes up just briefly in a section of a report given to Kulongoski titled, Transitional First Steps: Immediate actions for an evolving transportation system. The report reads (emphasis mine):
…Existing programs, such as the Safe Routes to Schools program, which receive federal, state and local funding, should be expanded to reach more of Oregon’s children through education and infrastructure improvements.
Implementing a point-of-sale excise tax on the purchase of adult bicycles should be used to enhance bicycle transportation, including Safe Routes to Schools.
(Update: The discussion of the tax so far has revolved around a fee of between $5 to $20 per bike. The committee also urged a 0.5% increase in the amount devoted to bike infrastructure in the Oregon Bicycle Bill.)
Rohde says he supports the bike tax concept for two main reasons. First, he feels like it will be an important political tool to counter arguments that bikes don’t pay their share to maintain and build roads.
Rohde says the revenue source created by the tax “would be safer” than other funding streams. “If we’re relying on gas tax or something like that to pay for bike programs, it could be at risk,” he told me via telephone yesterday.
He likened the BTA’s support for the idea to licenses for hunters and fishermen. Rohde said hunting and fishing groups are supportive of the licenses (they’ve even pushed to make them more expensive) because the money goes to firearm safety education and other programs.
Metro, a regional, elected government agency, also seems to support a bike tax idea. In their recently published case statement that was sent to Congress as part of a funding effort by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, Metro included the text below in a section titled, New Funding:
Potential for Bicycle Community Contribution. Pursue a contribution or registration fee for bicycles to engage cyclists and to address concern, however mistaken, that cyclists don’t carry their weight. This may be an important equity effort, rather than a key funding source.
It will be interesting to see how the bike tax idea develops in the coming months. Depending on your point of view, it can be seen as a massive mistake, or a welcome opportunity to finally silence critics who have long complained that bikes don’t pay their way.