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Bike commuter benefit does not survive Senate vote on Energy Bill

Posted by on December 14th, 2007 at 3:35 pm

National Bike Summit 07

Congressman Earl Blumenauer introducing the
Bike Commuter Act on Capitol Hill last March.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

The bike commuter tax benefit — which was introduced to Congress by Earl Blumenauer last March and passed a House vote last week — has been stripped out of the Energy Bill by the Senate.

The U.S. Senate passed the Energy Bill yesterday, but not before removing several “green initiatives” included in the bill by the Blumenauer-led Ways and Means Committee.

Along with removing Blumenauer’s effort to close the “Hummer tax loophole” (which sought to end the additional tax incentive for business purchases of luxury SUVs weighing over 6,000 lbs), the Senate removed the part of the bill that would have expanded the existing transportation fringe benefit to include bike commuters.

The bike commuter provision was based on The Bike Commuter Act and would have given a benefit of $20 per month to employees who biked to work “for the purchase, storage, or repair” of their bicycles. It would have brought bike commuters in line with existing tax benefits for transit users and car drivers.

Addressing National Bike Summit attendees on Capitol Hill last March, Blumenauer said the bike commuter benefit was simply a matter of equity and it would have stopped, “The discrimination against people who burn calories instead of fuel.”

Based on news reports, it seems the Democrats opted to agree to remove several provisions in the Bill in order to avoid a Republican filibuster.

Meeky Blizzard, who works in Blumenauer’s Portland office told me today that, “The House Leadership is committed to bringing the tax portions of the bill back in another form early next year, and I’m sure Earl will be working to make sure that the bike commute benefit is in there.”

The bill will now go back to the House for approval (Blizzard says it will pass as-is) and the White House is expected to sign the bill into law.

Here’s a little bonus audio from Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) taking a pot-shot at the bike commuter provision of the “Pork laden” Energy Bill. (I recorded this from a YouTube video of comments he made on the House Floor on December 6th.)

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  • Jeff December 14, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Oh course it would be interesting to know exactly WHO stripped it out on the Senate side. No doubt, one person pressed for this more than another.

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  • Mike_Khad1 December 14, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    That\’s a shame.

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  • a.O December 14, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    The Senate is as bad as the Traitor-in-Chief. When are these old men gonna figure out that it\’s time for something different?

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  • SH December 14, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    thanks senate.

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  • Mmann December 14, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Dang. I know politics is all about the art of compromise, but I hate being on the short end. Still, eliminating that dumb Hummer loophole is a good thing. Wait. Did the Senate remove the loophole, or remove the language that would have removed the loophole? Clarification?

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  • Cøyøte December 14, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Just burn it down. I\’m done.

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  • rixtir December 14, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    The Senate *kept* the Hummer tax benefit and eliminated the bike commuter tax benefit.

    Words escape me.

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  • Dave December 14, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Wait, did they remove the \”hummer loophole\”, or did they remove the part of the bill that would have removed the loophole?

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  • nate December 14, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Harry Reid is the guy to blame. Aside from increasing CAFE standards, is there anything good left in this bill?!?!

    Utilities must draw 15% from renewable sources.
    Rebates for hybrid purchases
    Bike benefits

    Added back in:
    Billions in fossil fuel subsidies
    Hummer tax loophole

    Reid is such a worthless PoS, though he\’s definitely not the only one…

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  • Refunk December 14, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Meeky Blizzard?

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  • Mike December 14, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    We\’ve got the best government that money can buy. Until that changes, I will not be surprised by this kind of B.S.

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  • Matt Picio December 14, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Well, that\’s what you get with a representative democracy. The majority of US drive cars, and the majority of US want that convenient climate-controlled, no-effort drive to work, home, or the mall.

    I\’m tired of being part of the US. Free Cascadia! I\’m all for secession, and this is a prime example of why.

    Not only does DC not address the problem, they frequently fail to even *understand* the problem.

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  • Opus the Poet December 14, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Last I talked to my Senator (the good one) as head of the Bicycle Caucus she was voting in favor of the Bike Commuter Benefit. Obviously this one got by her.


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  • Jan December 14, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Too bad I don\’t/can\’t run a gas station. I\’d charge $20. a gallon to those who purchased new hummers under the Hummer tax benefit. Hey, they should have extra money to burn since they got that benefit, right? I\’d not even sell gas to Boehner since he already must have his own plan to solve the energy independence issue. Boehner, I\’m listening? Ohio, I\’m listening?

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  • Bryan December 14, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Jeez, thanks guys. Once again they go out of their way to prove they do NOT recognize the interests of the people (in this case, ALL people who breathe our air) over those of business. Vote the bums out!

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  • erin g. December 14, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    This is most disappointing news, but not surprising. Let\’s remember which country is public enemy #1 at the U.N. conference on climate change in Bali this week. Kyoto treaty? Protect the planet’s atmosphere and climate? Why, that would be against this country’s “values,” judging by these anti-bikes/pro-Hummers & SUVs messages delivered loud and clear by many who represent The People.

    Question: As venting our frustrations accomplishes little, what can we do to show the rest of the country and world that *we* do not buy into these embarrassing standards upheld by the federal government and corporate interests (ah, yes- those are synonymous these days).

    Idea: As host city, let\’s make the 2008 International Towards Carfree Cities Conference a monumental success!

    It could be a shot of hope and forward-momentum to be heard throughout the country and world. The fantastic conference organizers just might need some volunteers, funding, and support of all kinds as they work hard to realize the full potential of this historic conference, the first of its kind in North America. Let’s all stay tuned, as I\’m sure they\’ll keep us posted about ways in which we can help or get involved as planning moves forward!

    Please don\’t let this sort of bad news get you down, everyone. Let it fuel flames of action, leadership, and fighting for all that is right, ethical, and good.



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  • peejay December 14, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    The best thing we can do is to support progressive candidates in primary challenges against the worst of the appeasing Democrats. This is the sad truth about aur electoral system. Any third party vote is a vote wasted; any vote for a \”moderate\” Republican is willful ignorance of the political reality.

    In the meantime, let\’s get our local house in order, and hope that the rest of trhe country will follow our lead.

    Go, SAM!

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  • Axe December 14, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Regarding post number 17: \”This is the sad truth about aur electoral system. Any third party vote is a vote wasted; any vote for a \”moderate\” Republican is willful ignorance of the political reality.\”

    It\’s pretty clear to me that a vote for a Democrat is a vote wasted as well. Look at the clear mandate they had after the last election and look at what came out of it. Not a damn thing…

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  • wsbob December 14, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    \”Along with removing Blumenauer’s effort to close the “Hummer tax loophole” (which sought to end the additional tax incentive for business purchases of luxury SUVs weighing over 6,000 lbs), the Senate removed…\” Maus/

    I missed out way back when on the logic that allowed people to get a tax break for buying those dopey Hummers and other monster SUV\’s. Never made any sense to me. It\’s likely that simple, functional, heavy duty vehicles such as a truck to haul things around were the idea for the tax break, not plush luxury appointed SUV\’s. I\’ts pathetic that our government is so lame that it can\’t write some simple language into a bill that eliminates this kind of abuse of a well intentioned incentive for business. That our elect-eds allowed this to happen once again is insulting to anyone\’s intelligence.

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  • rainperimeter December 15, 2007 at 3:14 am

    Matt Picio: Sever the ties…

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  • ChipSeal December 15, 2007 at 5:07 am

    Support Obama, obviously!

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  • Dennis Lima December 15, 2007 at 6:56 am

    Gee, I thought this country would be the land of milk and honey once the Democrats took control of Congress!

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  • Antonio Gramsci December 15, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    Amazing. Considering that we\’re talking about a paltry fraction of a fraction of a percent of the total budget, it couldn\’t possibly have been for actual budgetary reasons. Presumably the US Senate has its share of anti-pedestrian and anti-cyclist motorized maniacs, much like — and more tragically — US roads.

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  • Depressed December 15, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    We have such a corrupt government. I\’d like to know who voted against it and how much money each takes from GM.

    Thanks anyway, Earl.

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  • JE December 15, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Free Oregon!

    Succession Yes

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  • Todd B December 16, 2007 at 12:31 am

    Before this vote I thought the Senate was the seat of hope for our government…but now this after a year of promises to bring the troops home…why did we vote for the Democrats? (At least we know what side the Republicans are on.) Thanks Earl for giving it a shot…please try it again…but on par with the transit and parking benefits vs. !0%.

    Are there any Senators on the bike caucus? Or just House members?

    Jonathan…or anyone else out there…perhaps we can post a list of the OR, WA, CA votes on this for an up coming article?!

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  • brady December 16, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Incredible. The people voting on these bills are the same people who wonder why anyone would ever want to blow up a federal building in the middle of the night. I am NOT saying I condone blowing up federal buildings, but I AM saying that I am not so dense as to fail to understand why it happens. (Kind of like Malcolm X\’s \”chickens coming home to roost\” comment over 40 years ago.)

    I once lived next to a freelance software programmer who took advantage of the \”Dummer\” loophole to purchase a $76,000 Land Rover, which guzzled even more gas than the (nearly new) Toyota Sequoia it replaced. The reason? His tax advisor told him to. Basically, he went from OWING about $15,000 in taxes to getting money BACK, just by making this \”business related\” purchase. Guess those programmers have to haul a lot of books, or something. Can\’t say I blame him, though–I probably would have done the same thing; it\’s the law\’s fault for allowing this.

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  • Phil Hanson (aka Pedalphile) December 16, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Matt Picio, rainperimeter, JE, et al, welcome to the secession movement. Cascadia\’s time has come; let\’s not blow the opportunity. How about Blumenauer for Cascadia\’s first president?

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  • a.O December 16, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Free Cascadia!

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  • oldguyonabike December 17, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Same ol\’, same ol\’.
    Part of me is counting the days until Bush gets the boot. Another part is baffled by the shattered fantasy that a Democratically controlled Congress would stand up to him. Petro/auto money talks – again. Exercise your voting rights and lets start putting people with spines in office.

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  • Dave December 17, 2007 at 9:33 am

    If I lived in Oregon, I\’d be voting for Steve Novick (?) for US Senate–I don\’t think he\’s an oil/auto ho.

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  • Just Me December 17, 2007 at 9:42 am

    Im a business owner and have to say Im disgusted by the \”Dummer\” loophole. I have never taken advantage of it, while I have seen other business owners I know think of me as stupid for not doing such. It marks me as ludicrous to think the loophole was ever made, but that is our government…. I also find it ludicrous and downright petty that anyone would even consider voting out something so paltry as a $240 annual credit for commuting cyclists. This wouldnt make a dent in the budget unlike the Dummer loophole.
    When are we going to realize who we keep voting into office? We keep voting for these career politicians because they argue they have the experience to do the job right. This country buys into it every single time…. Then we get people who run that arent the standard gray-haired, greedy, puppet-of-the-corporations, career politician type (Obama for example) and we scrutinize them endlessly. Lets try something new and vote in a brighter, younger, less cynical, less controlled, less \”qualified\” government and see what real change can be made.

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  • Dave December 17, 2007 at 10:35 am

    \”Just Me,\” you make a good point for seriously considering an Obama vote in the primary.

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  • Ashley December 17, 2007 at 11:19 am

    WTF. Sad.

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  • Nelson Muntz December 17, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Keep in mind that Dems are just about as bad as the Republicans when it comes to pandering to coporate interests.

    Why do they support the Hummer loophole? Because they are appeasing automakers, autoworkers, and some powerful and senior lawmakers from Michigan who want to preserve assembly line jobs and the most profitable vehicles the \”Big Three\” make.

    It\’s far more complex than \”Dems represent the people, GOPs represent the corporations\”. Big business has its hooks into both parties. Too often, lawmakers that actually have principles get bullied into supporting awful legislation to protect their constituent\’s needs.

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  • PJ December 17, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Weak. Just **** weak. This just proves why voting DOES NOT work. Democrats are republicans, it is a one party system.

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  • Zaphod December 17, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    If I\’m not mistaken, Democrats have an extremely tenuous majority. So this majority offers up some agenda setting power, we can\’t get where we need/would like to go. From my perspective, it does *seem* that they\’re acting without conviction but I have to believe that there are real reasons for these results outside of corruption. It\’s easy to be cynical and check out but I\’m not ready to go there yet. Call it blind optimism if you will but I\’m sticking with it.

    Meanwhile PDX is moving very much in the right direction at a rapid pace and I\’m happy about that. 2008 should be pretty amazing.

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  • Martha R December 17, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Why aren\’t the bike-related businesses lobbying harder? Okay, so they may not be quite as powerful as the SUV makers, but don\’t they realize that we the customers will pass that tax break right on to them? That is, if I had a $20/month tax break for bicycling to work, I\’d be more inclined to spend money upgrading my bike and associated gear. Tax benefit for me = more money funneled to the bike-related companies.

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  • Gary B. December 27, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    \”Based on news reports, it seems the Democrats opted to agree to remove several provisions in the Bill in order to avoid a Republican filibuster.\”

    I am really baffled that the H.R. 1498 Bike Commuter Act was a big enough issue to Republicans that it would stop passage of the Energy Bill…

    One thing is for sure. My days of voting Republican are OVER!

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