Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 10th, 2008 at 3:35 pm
Governor Ted Kulongoski held a hearing in front of lawmakers this morning in Salem to announce his Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009.
In an effort to raise money to pay for transportation infrastructure improvements and create jobs, Kulongoski proposed a 2-cent increase to the gas tax and a host of motor vehicle-related fees. The BTA’s Karl Rohde, who attended the hearing, says the governor is also considering a bicycle excise tax.
In his statement this morning, Kulongoski invoked Oregon’s $2.5 billion transportation bill that passed the Legislature in the “tough times” of 2003. Kulongoski reminded his colleagues that back then, even while the state slashed $2 billion out of the budget, schools closed early, and Oregon’s unemployment rate skyrocketed, they still managed to pass the, “largest investment in roads and bridges in Oregon since the building of our share of the Interstate Highway System.”
Kulongoski’s plan (which is outlined in a copy of his testimony forwarded to me by Karl Rohde) is estimated to pump $3.1 billion dollars into the economy in the first five years and it includes $600 million in one-time funding to, “help relieve bottlenecks in our transportation system.”
The plan, which Kulongoski calls JTA, will create more than 6,700 jobs and will also:
“invest 50-million in state highway modernization projects; provide a quarter billion dollars for road programs in cities and counties; and allocate fifteen million to continue our progress toward a new Columbia River Crossing – an absolutely critical investment for the Oregon economy.”
To pay for the plan Kulongoski wants a 2-cent increase to the gas tax, a doubling of the vehicle titling fee (to $110/year), an increase to the vehicle registration fee (from $27 a year to $81 a year) and the creation of a $100-a-year fee for titling cars new to the state.
Also in his address, Kulongoski told lawmakers that the second major goal of his plan is to create the “most sustainable transportation package in Oregon history.”
To do that, he said Oregon should offer incentives for the purchase of electric cars (the “next generation of highly efficient vehicles”) and “a comprehensive transportation options program designed to reduce the number of cars on the road.”
In an effort to develop a “a long-term funding source to replace the gas tax,” the governor has set up a Road User Fee Task Force. His plan also creates a Transportation Utility Commission, modeled on the Public Utility Commission, in order to “develop a conceptual framework for setting transportation rates.”
The BTA’s government affairs director Karl Rohde was in Salem for the announcement this morning and he said many of the details of the plan are yet to be worked out — including how bicycles might figure into things.
Rohde has a conference call set with Kulogoski’s staff tomorrow where he hopes to hear more about possible bike infrastructure funding programs in the new plan.
“It’s my understanding,” Rohde told me this morning, “that the governor recognizes the importance of bicycling to the state, and that his eventual proposal will include funding for bicycle programs.”
In addition to fees that will hit motor vehicle operators, Rohde said that other new taxes might be in the works. One of them is a possible excise tax on the sale of bicycles.
Rohde says the bicycle excise tax idea came up when the topic of a bicycle registration fee was raised during a meeting of the governor’s Transportation Vision Committee (of which Rohde was a member). Details on the potential bike tax are still being worked out but so far it would likely be a fee tacked on at the point of sale and funds would go toward specific bicycle programs.
Questions that remain are the amount of the tax, if it should be based on the value or type of bike, whether or not it should be waved for children’s bikes, and so on.
An estimated $1.5 million a year could be raised with a new bike tax. Rohde says the funds might be tied to a specific program, like Safe Routes to Schools.
According to Rohde, a bike tax was considered a few sessions ago, but it was quickly killed by big box retailers, who account for 75% of the state’s bicycle sales.