Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Oregon’s bike tax revenue is far below expectations, while admin overhead is going up

Posted by on December 18th, 2018 at 10:37 am

Customers at Universal Cycles on SE Ankeny are greeted with these signs at the checkout counter.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Through three quarters of its first year in existence, Oregon’s $15 bicycle excise tax has added $489,000 into state coffers. That’s a lot lower than state economists expected. Overhead costs are also more than expected and are likely to climb even higher as officials beef up filing enforcement efforts.

As OPB reported last week, officials from the Department of Revenue, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Legislative Revenue Office have been updating lawmakers on receipts from the slew of new taxes and fees included in the $5.3 billion transportation package passed in 2017. Among them was the infamous $15 tax that applies to every new bicycle valued at $200 or higher sold in Oregon.

The tax was pitched as a way to force bicycle riders to have some “skin in the game” when it comes to funding transportation infrastructure. It was seen by advocates (The Street Trust opposed the fee but supported the package it was integral to) as a part of the compromise needed to pass a bill with funding for Safe Routes to School and public transit, while raising fees and taxes on motor vehicle use. The tax was also seen as a way to answer some voters who — despite it being terrible and ineffective — have long dreamed of making “cyclists pay their way.”

We’ve railed against the bike tax from a policy perspective in the past. Why on earth would Oregon want to tax a form of transportation that adds such tremendous value to our roads and lives? Given cycling’s return-on-investment, it makes more sense to pay people to ride them than to tack on a clumsy tax.

Now it turns out the bike tax isn’t an efficient revenue tool either.

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(Chart: State of Oregon)

Back in September, an official from the Department of Revenue told members of the House Committee on Transportation that the bike tax had raised just $289,000 through its first six months. Of that, only $133,000 had been transferred to ODOT’s Connect Oregon grant program where it will be earmarked for path and trail projects outside of the highway right-of-way. (Yes, that’s right, the way the law was written, the money can’t be used for on-street bikeways.)

“At this point it’s pretty labor intensive.”
— Xann Culver, Oregon Department of Revenue on their efforts to collect the bike tax

Now state officials estimate the bike tax will likely bring in about $900,000 in its first two years. That’s less than half of the $2.1 million they told lawmakers it would bring in every two years. At another committee meeting last week, officials released a chart showing that future year estimates will be even lower. Instead of $2.8 million every biennium, they now expect just $1.1 million. And that’s before subtracting administrative costs. ODOT Economist Daniel Porter told lawmakers that in hindsight, their estimates for the bike tax were, “A real shot in the dark.” He blamed Oregon’s lack of sales tax data and a misunderstanding of the “seasonalities” of new bike sales.

Back in September, Department of Revenue staffer Xann Culver said they had less than 100 retailers filing the tax. Joint Committee on Transportation Co-Chair Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay) commented that the number of retailers seemed low. “Was there some sort of plan to increase that number to make sure everybody is paying their fair share?” she asked. “Yes,” the DOR staffer replied. She then explained how they plan to bump up filing enforcement efforts do more research on their list of 350 bicycle retailers to see which ones are selling taxable bicycles, and follow-up on tips from retailers about others shops who aren’t filing. The state also plans to hire an additional auditor in the coming months to “do more enforcement.” “At this point,” Culver said, “It’s pretty labor intensive.”

So, while the estimated revenue from the tax goes down, it appears as though the amount it takes to collect it will be going up.

For more on how the bike tax is doing, read the OPB article. And tune into OPB’s Think Out Loud show today at noon where I’ll be sharing my views as a guest.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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96 Comments
  • katie December 18, 2018 at 10:39 am

    lol yeah no shit

    Recommended Thumb up 46

    • kelly December 18, 2018 at 10:47 am

      yeah, what did you expect from a tax that was specifically designed to screw over bikers rather than be a consistent revenue stream?

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      • David Hampsten December 18, 2018 at 12:39 pm

        I recently bought a $400 bike, paid $27 in sales tax on it, most of which will go towards building highways. You people in Oregon have it so easy with a $15 flat tax…

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        • J_R December 18, 2018 at 12:51 pm

          To buy a $400 bike, I need to EARN $400. Oregon’s income tax rate is 9 percent. So, I pay $36 in income tax plus $15 bike tax for a total of $51. North Carolina’s income tax rate is 5.5 percent, so you pay $22 in income tax plus $27 in sale tax for a total of $49. Who has it easy?

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          • David Hampsten December 18, 2018 at 1:32 pm

            Touche! And in fact my state also has a much higher standard deduction than Oregon, so I pay even less.

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  • Chris I December 18, 2018 at 10:47 am

    They got $15 from my 3 year-old for her $400 Islabike. Nice work, guys. This is really a great idea…

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    • Matt December 18, 2018 at 11:59 am

      Wait, the tax is only supposed to apply to bikes with 26″ or larger wheels. Surely your tot is on 12″ wheels at the largest?

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      • Chris I December 18, 2018 at 12:17 pm

        They changed the law this past summer to remove that exception. Totally ridiculous…

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        • Matt December 18, 2018 at 12:37 pm

          Yikes. I missed that update.

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  • oliver December 18, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Awesome! Maybe we should try a bicycle licensing scheme.

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    • q December 18, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Tricycles are gateway vehicles.

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  • J_R December 18, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Of the first $289k collected, only $133k was transferred to use on intended projects.

    For those who struggle with basic arithmetic (state legislators, for example): the administrative costs are 56 percent of the collections. Wow!

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  • David Hampsten December 18, 2018 at 11:01 am

    $489,000 / $15 = 32,600 bicycles for the first 3 quarters = 43,467 $200+ bikes sold annually in Oregon = at least $8,693,333 in annual sales of $200+ bikes.

    Given a population of a little over 4 million in the state, slightly more than 1% of the state population received or bought a $200+ bike this year.

    Portland has about 650,000 people, which is roughly 16% of the state population, so theoretically they bought 0.16×43,467 $200+ bikes = 6,955 $200+ bikes sold in 2018.

    Given 50 shops that sell bikes in Portland (including department stores), each shop sold an average of 139 bikes this year.

    No wonder both Performance and you LBS are going bankrupt.

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    • Ken S December 19, 2018 at 9:49 am

      Most bike shops don’t make any money on the sale of bikes. The margins are too narrow. They make money on repairs and equipment.

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      • Lou F December 24, 2018 at 12:55 pm

        Bicycles usually have a profit margin of up to 50% if someone just buys without negotiating a better price.

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        • Mike December 26, 2018 at 11:02 am

          Umm…. What brand and what kind of dealer agreement did you sign? I’m sure there are a lot of bike shop owners and buyers that would love to have your “no negotiating” skill at achieving an almost unheard of profit margin.

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        • pengo December 26, 2018 at 6:18 pm

          Speaking as someone with bicycle shop experience and access to search engines I can assure you that this is wildly inaccurate.

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  • Bjorn December 18, 2018 at 11:01 am

    This was entirely predictable, and in fact many including myself did predict it. This follows the pattern of bicycle licensing programs in other areas many of which have been repealed over the last 20 years because they either lost money or barely broke even. Tiny fees on many things is an awful way to raise revenue, the only good reason to impose a fee like this is to discourage a behavior, and I don’t see a lot of public benefit to discouraging bicycle sales. If you want to raise revenue do it through property or income taxes where an increase in the rate has no impact on the administrative costs.

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    • Buzz December 18, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      Oregonians already pay way too much in property and income taxes, it’s high time substantial portions of both of these taxes were replaced with a general sales tax that is structured in such a way so as to exempt basic necessities like food and medical care. A majority of states already do this; rejecting a general sales tax in Oregon time and time again is only hurting the state’s long-term revenue.

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      • oliver December 18, 2018 at 1:13 pm

        No.

        Point your car in any direction and in a short while you’ll be in a state that will happily allow you to pay sales tax, as well as force you to pump your own gasoline.

        Oregon doesn’t do sales tax.

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        • Bjorn December 18, 2018 at 1:31 pm

          Oregon has one of the more progressive tax systems in the country, in part because we do not have a sales tax. I see no good reason to move to a sales tax. Administering a 3rd kind of tax is just going to add a bunch of wasted administrative costs and eliminating either income or property tax and replacing it with a sales tax will likely make the final product more regressive than where we are now.

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          • Josh December 18, 2018 at 3:21 pm

            How exactly is Oregon tax progressive? One of the LEAST progressive in the U.S.A.

            If you make between $8,450 and $125,000 your income tax rate is 9%. For income over $125,000 your rate is 9.9%. Seems like most people are paying pretty much the same. It’s basically a flat tax.

            Let’s say a very poor person makes $10,000 in income. They’re paying the same rate as someone bringing home $125,000! That is seriously messed up. And someone bringing home a cool million only pays 0.9% more (for income over $8,450) than the person earning $10,000.

            https://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/08/oregons_crazy_income-tax_brack.html

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            • Chris I December 18, 2018 at 4:03 pm

              Our system is more progressive than states who have no income tax at all (like Washington), because poor people spend a larger percentage of their income on taxable goods. Sales taxes are considered to be very regressive, unless they are targeted at luxury goods only.

              The best deal anyone can get is to be a high-income earner in a low-cost area of a state like Washington or Texas. You can even own rental properties in other states and pull in your wealth tax-free. Bonus: if you can drive over the border to a sales tax-free state to purchase expensive goods.

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              • soren December 19, 2018 at 11:50 am

                “Sales taxes are considered to be very regressive, unless they are targeted at luxury goods only.”

                i don’t care about the progressiveness or regressiveness of taxes. for me the key issue is whether they are redistributive or not.

                consumption taxes in northern europe and scandinavia tend to be redistributive because much of the consumption of lower-income folk is either not taxed or taxed at a lower rate (e.g. 6% vs 25%). moreover, these taxes are predominantly used to fund programs that disproportionately benefit lower-income folk and their children.

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            • soren December 18, 2018 at 4:21 pm

              And Oregon’s property taxes are also unnecessarily regressive due to measure 5/50 “tax control.

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            • Bjorn December 19, 2018 at 11:36 am

              Washington is a pretty great compare on this, I have seen several studies on how unfair their tax system is. I will link one which found the bottom 20% of washingtonians pay taxes at a higher rate than the bottom 20% of any other state. Oregon ranks number 2 for fairness (washington is 50). I am not saying what we have couldn’t be more progressive, but it is very clear that it could be much worse and almost every state in the country is worse largely because sales taxes tend to be quite regressive regardless of if groceries are exempt or not, so much so that it swamps out our fairly flat but still somewhat progressive income tax.

              https://wallethub.com/edu/most-least-fair-tax-systems/6598/

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        • Ps December 18, 2018 at 6:13 pm

          Yeah, Oregon doesn’t do sales tax, or education, or infrastructure. Add in PERS, and OR isn’t going to do much of anything, but this hardline response to what is a very balanced revenue generation option given we currently can’t generate enough revenue now with the strongest job and real estate markets ever, is laughable.

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          • Chris I December 19, 2018 at 7:24 am

            We have plenty of tax revenue. We need PERS reform.

            If we do add a sales tax to fund infrastructure or education, I would hope that it is only placed on vehicles, gasoline, etc.

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            • PS December 19, 2018 at 10:20 am

              Except the Oregon Supreme Court has specifically ruled (ridiculously) that the defined benefit pensions cannot be adjusted, only alterations to new members of the pension scheme are allowed. Those are the pensioners causing the greatest issue with unfunded liabilities, particularly as we look at a year in which returns will likely be nearly flat, adding another $4B to that existing $22B-23B. So, ol Kate Brown has a great idea for education reform, but without amending what pensioners are receiving, all that money will go to unfunded pension obligations, if not now, certainly in the future. This of course is all at the very end of a very long growth cycle, so any dip in the markets in 2019 and beyond will only exacerbate the issue further. So, I would argue, we don’t have enough tax revenue if that is the situation we live in. A reasonable sales tax would tax everything but groceries, and at even 2-3% would generate a ton of money from literally everyone, not just high earners and property owners.

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              • Bjorn December 19, 2018 at 11:38 am

                I don’t know what is ridiculous about requiring a legally negotiated contract to be followed.

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          • Pete December 20, 2018 at 8:44 pm

            My Oregon property tax is relatively high, and the note that comes with it says over 75% of it goes to fund education, yet my county is struggling to balance its budgets (while my city is buying new police trucks), and we all know school teachers aren’t raking in the dough. What gives?

            I grew up in Taxachusetts, as it was called, but we had a 5% sales tax which exempted essential goods. This made complete sense to me: easy to calculate, and the more expensive a non-essential good you purchased the more you payed. If you were struggling, you weren’t taxed on groceries, toilet paper and the like. And vehicles had an “excise tax” that kicked in at a reasonable figure ($30K IIRC – maybe would be $90K in today’s dollars – yeah, I’m dating myself).

            When I moved from Oregon to California my income went up and my income tax rate went down. Today, I’m more than happy to do almost all my shopping in Oregon, and if a sales tax was implemented it would have to be close to 9% to discourage me from that (and I suspect most Washingtonians as well).

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      • meh December 19, 2018 at 8:08 am

        Our problem with taxes has nothing to do with how many revenue streams we have. It is entirely an issue of waste. We have record breaking revenues yet we cannot live within our means. When 30% of my school boards budget is going to PERS obligations there is something wrong with the system,. Giving them more money is not the solution. Well I’d give Dennis Richardson more money to perform more audits and expose more waste.

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        • PS December 19, 2018 at 10:52 am

          I am with you 100%, but the prevalence of the “we don’t back down on our promises” rhetoric is going to prevent any material adjustment to the cost of pensions that are the predominant cause of unfunded liabilities, old system retirees, with benefits so generous, it is hard to believe it was ever allowed. In light of this situation, we don’t have enough revenue from the streams we have, unless we are going to resign to the fact we will have the next generation be incredibly uneducated because of one generation of pensioners. As voters continue to put the funding of various items on the backs of homeowners and the entire education spectrum from elementary to “higher” education is terrible, the folks most responsible for contributing to the current tax situation (high earners with homes) will look elsewhere (i.e. SW washington).

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          • Pete December 20, 2018 at 8:46 pm

            Remember the kicker? When I lived in Oregon I remember getting checks in the mail that probably cost more to mail…

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            • Guest36912 January 4, 2019 at 12:46 pm

              That’s why they don’t mail them anymore. It’s a credit against the subsequent year’s taxes.

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  • Bobby December 18, 2018 at 11:06 am

    I’m curious whether there’s been an attempt (or whether there will be an attempt in this future session in light of the SCOTUS Wayfair decision) to collect this tax from online retailers. I imagine that with a $15 disadvantage, people have/will turn to online sales at the cost to local bike shops.

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    • David Hampsten December 18, 2018 at 11:31 pm

      Not any more. All online retailers now have to pay sales tax for the state of origin, regardless if they have a presence in that state or not. Recent court ruling earlier this week. Doesn’t affect residents in states without sales tax, but it does affect any business doing sales outside of their state, even for Oregon businesses.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Lou F December 24, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      Yep, I buy online 100% of the time now. Bikesdirect is a great place to buy a bike, basically paying what bike shops pay.

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  • John Lascurettes December 18, 2018 at 11:17 am

    Oh gee, nobody predicted this would happen did they? /s

    So what happens now, do they kill it, or raise it?

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • Al December 18, 2018 at 11:23 am

    This was a hateful piece of legislation brought about by rural Republican legislators who wanted to protect rail terminal and airport project funding in their districts. In effect your bike tax money was always intended to shore up rural rail terminal and airport projects. No kidding! You can’t make this stuff up.

    The fact that it’s a complete debacle is of no interest to them. Their mission was accomplished.

    What boggles my mind was that the Democratic majority was simply unwilling to stop this and even orgs like The Street Trust gave in. The bike tax is a complete negation of The Oregon Bicycle Bill, which incidentally was promoted by Oregon Republicans of a bygone era based on the simple economics of bicycling saving the state money on transportation infrastructure.

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    • John Lascurettes December 18, 2018 at 11:33 am

      Well said.

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    • Jason December 18, 2018 at 11:51 am

      “But it will give cyclists a voice”….. 😐

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • Alan Love December 18, 2018 at 12:51 pm

        Don’t forget “skin in the game”, because the actual skin smeared on asphalt wasn’t enough.

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    • Chris I December 18, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      Rural airport subsidies like EAS generally only benefit the very wealthy. It subsidizes tickets that are not affordable for the vast-majority of residents in these rural areas.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

    • meh December 19, 2018 at 8:09 am

      So the fact that the Democrats had a majority and the Governorship has nothing to do with this? The minority party got it pushed through without any co-operation of the majority party?

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    • soren December 19, 2018 at 9:56 am

      “This was a hateful piece of legislation brought about by rural Republican legislator”

      This is completely false. The Bike Tax was proposed and vociferously supported by democrats.

      https://bikeportland.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/monroe-quote-e1497031420426.jpg

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      • Ken S December 19, 2018 at 11:00 am

        It’s not completely false; it’s definitely a hateful piece of legislation.

        Recommended Thumb up 6

        • soren December 19, 2018 at 2:34 pm

          Democratic Senator Rod Monroe proposed this tax in early iterations of HB 2007 on the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (he was once chair of this committee so was influential). To the best of my knowledge, there was no republican champion of this tax on JPACT (although some probably supported it).

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  • Racer X December 18, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Has anyone done an audit of the bike sales from big box stores for compliance? Yes, they do have a lot of $100 bikes but now they retail many more >$200 bikes due to the value of the US Dollar (plus rising overseas wages and Trump Tariffs).

    Sounds like an interesting research project for a PSU, etc. student.

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  • CaptainKarma December 18, 2018 at 11:58 am

    So what’s the best road towards repeal?

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    • kelly December 18, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      Stop buying bikes in Oregon and let the tax kill itself via admin cost overruns.

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      • Doug Hecker December 18, 2018 at 6:53 pm

        So go to Washington instead and pay sales tax on it? ; )

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • q December 18, 2018 at 7:06 pm

          You don’t have to pay sales tax in Washington if you are not a Washington resident.

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          • B. Carfree December 19, 2018 at 11:55 am

            I was stunned when I purchased a custom tandem in Seattle and the builder filled out some paperwork to waive the sales tax. It seemed unfair that I could dodge the sales tax just because I live in another state. I rode on the public rail and bus to get there, stayed in a hotel, rode home on public roads, ate food that was delivered on those same public roads and sometimes inspected by the state, and yet I wasn’t required to pay my way. It still bothers me, but not quite enough to make a donation to the state of Washington. 🙂

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            • Pete December 25, 2018 at 12:52 pm

              With an Oregon license you can get Washington taxes waived in many locations, particularly on the border, and also if you’re at any winery in WA it’s at least worth asking. I’ve purchased many items in Vancouver and White Salmon and even Seattle with the taxes waived, but only if the shop is set up to file the correct forms. (Hint: if they ship out of state, they most likely are).

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    • X December 20, 2018 at 9:54 am

      Buy a used bike in Oregon and pay your LBS to upgrade it as needed. Granted it’s a little harder to find the size frame you need. Carbon fiber is out, but you can have a solid frame with great wheels built in Portland (markup and labor is value added that stays here) and good components to tailor the fit and match the kind of riding you plan to do. It’s possible that the frame you need is already in your basement. $300 worth of wheels for a bike that fits you is a way better investment than any $300 whole bike that you could find in a store.

      Of course you build up your own wheels and bikes this comment is going right past you. I found out that there are better and faster builders than me. It’s profitable for me to spend time on work that I do understand and pay somebody else to make art that I can ride. Also this is from the point of view that my days of powering up a bike to the degree that I can find the good qualities of a superior frame may be past. I’d love to be wrong about that but really it’s just sentimentality that keeps from selling my very nice steel road bike.

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      • X December 20, 2018 at 10:15 am

        . . .IF you build. . .

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      • Pete December 25, 2018 at 12:58 pm

        Not sure what you mean “carbon fiber is out.” Argonaut is one of several native carbon frame builders, and the UAV and windsurf industries in the Gorge yielded decades of experienced carbon fiber companies and craftspeople. Knight Composites in Bend is another prime example – top notch wheels. There are Ti frame builders in OR as well. I know many people believe “steel is real”, but it’s not everyone’s preference.

        Just had my fifth custom wheelset built in Oregon, and I absolutely agree with your advice.

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        • X December 26, 2018 at 2:53 pm

          When shopping for a used frame.

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  • Matt December 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    > they plan to bump up filing enforcement efforts do more research on their list of 350 bicycle retailers to see which ones are selling taxable bicycles, and follow-up on tips from retailers about others shops who aren’t filing

    Here’s a tip (or snitch, if you will): IBD’s (independent bicycle distributors, aka local bike shops) aren’t the only places selling taxable bikes. Your Walmarts, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and other sellers of less-cool bikes sell plenty that are over the taxable threshold.

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    • Pete December 25, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      Geez, if they’re going to pay people to do added enforcement, they should start with speeders.

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  • Johnny Bye Carter December 18, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Great, now we have to hear about how this is proof that cyclists don’t pay their way.

    (gets the road cost infographic ready)

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    • Ontheroad December 18, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      Bicycle riders don’t pay their way, and bicycle taxing schemes don’t pay their way either.

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      • Chris I December 19, 2018 at 7:25 am

        Driving is subsidized in this country, so anyone riding a bike is saving the government money.

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      • B. Carfree December 19, 2018 at 11:59 am

        Huh? The majority of the revenue for road building and maintenance as well as all of the funds for emergency response, environmental damage and health damage, come from general fund sources that originate with income and property taxes, which cyclists pay in the same proportion as motorists. However, people on bicycles do zero damage to those roads, thus the people damaging them, which is why all those dollars are being spent, are the one who aren’t paying their fair share.

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        • X December 20, 2018 at 9:55 am

          Have a nice swim in those ruts on the freeway.

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        • X December 20, 2018 at 9:58 am

          Sorry that was meant to be a reply to –ontheroad. Les Schwab is a well run business but they are on the dark side when it comes to studded tires. We’re all paying for the damage.

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  • Al December 18, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Repealing the bike tax could fit into Governor Brown’s agenda items 2. spend every dollar wisely and 4. reduce state’s greenhouse gas emissions (I used my words to abbreviate her agenda for this term).

    Contact your legislator and ask them how THEY plan to eliminate the bike tax! They are unlikely to have an answer. Tell them that you expect one before the session begins in January and follow up on it. Also, meet them in person. They often have public meetings. Even if you can’t get a face to face, talk to a staffer. This puts the issue on their radar as I’m sure they are completely oblivious to it.

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    • X December 20, 2018 at 10:04 am

      Given how little political activism most of us do is this really a good thing to put energy into? Really folks, suck it up and give the $15. As far as I’m concerned the biggest problem with the bike tax is, it’s not getting in my pocket at all, and I hardly ever leave my house without getting on a bike. It’s a tax that fails at the main purpose of a tax, raising money, and also fails as spite –if that’s what it really was– because it’s so easily avoided.

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  • Serenity December 18, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    What did these state economists expect? Did they expect the cyclists they’re trying to screw to continue to buy their fancy new bikes in Oregon?

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  • Middle of the Road Guy December 18, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    At least we get to tell drivers that we pay taxes – because I am sure that’s going to change their mind.

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    • q December 18, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      Exactly (understanding the sarcasm).

      I wonder how many people with the “bikes need to start paying their fair share” opinion even are aware of this tax. I’d be surprised if it’s more than 1 in 1,000.

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  • Joe December 18, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    LAME

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  • Steve Scarich December 18, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Today on Think Out Loud (OPB), there was a rare guest who did not obfuscate, spin, lie, or otherwise completely blur their message….Nice work Jonathan

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  • OldRider December 18, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Do we really expect laws from the moroons in Salem be rational ?

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  • jered December 18, 2018 at 4:36 pm

    To quote Nelson from the Simpsons (while pointing at Oregon Legislators) “HA HA!”

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  • SD December 18, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    …And people were losing their minds over the Arts tax exceeding a 5% administrative cost.

    Why can’t the legislators just admit it was a stupid idea. They don’t even have to tell the truth that it was political theater at the expense of a constituency that is too small to fight back.

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  • soren December 18, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    I would like to point out that the bike tax was proposed by democratic party of oregon legislators.

    As if we needed any more evidence of the democratic party’s committment to supporting transportation equity and mitigating climate change!

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    • B. Carfree December 19, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Didn’t it originate with Democrats from the Eugene area? You know, that city that once boasted a 10.8% cycling modal share that is currently down to 4.4% and on target for 0% in 2024.

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  • pengo December 18, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    anyone who thinks bicycle sales will generate significant revenue has clearly never talked to a shop owner

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    • Stephen Keller December 18, 2018 at 9:33 pm

      Agreed. My casual observation of stock turn over at the bike shop in my neighborhood suggests that bread and butter money comes from repair and maintenance work not bike sales.

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      • David Hampsten December 18, 2018 at 11:36 pm

        I know several LBS owners who have stopped selling retail and only do the latter, and rather successfully too.

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        • SD December 19, 2018 at 8:44 am

          Hopefully orlegs don’t read the BP comments and decide to add a tax for bike maintenance to save their failed retail tax.

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        • B. Carfree December 19, 2018 at 12:12 pm

          I just purchased a new bike on Saturday to replace my wife’s town bike. (Amazingly, three town-bike bike FRAMES broke on us over the past few months, only one of which was worth repairing.) The shop we purchased the bike from stores its retail bikes at a separate location because it’s not worth taking up floor space for such a low-profit item. You have to get an employee and walk around the block to see the bikes that are for sale.

          And yes, we paid the silly $15 tax. The shop was apologetic about the charge and I kept quiet about how I feel about the tax; I didn’t want to spoil the celebratory moment with any negative commentary.

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      • tee December 19, 2018 at 7:26 pm

        Some people replace bikes frequently. It seems much easier with regular maintenance, barring a major crash or wipeout, to upgrade components and keep a bicycle for 15+ years. This tax was a horrid idea from the start that would never been anything other than a failure.

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  • Lester Burnham December 19, 2018 at 7:58 am

    The bike tax along with the Arts tax needs to go!

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  • AndyK December 20, 2018 at 6:14 am

    Backwards and embarrassing. This should be a post about how people who buy bicycles get tax credits.

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  • Al December 20, 2018 at 10:05 am

    While several members of the committee made statements about the bill, the bike tax specifically was championed by Brian Boquist who also put this forth in prior sessions and has advocated for bike licenses and registrations in the past. As I wrote before, “What boggles my mind was that the Democratic majority was simply unwilling to stop this.” I speculate that there was some trade off but have no idea what possible benefit(s) Democrats on the committee or the general legislature extracted from going along with the bike tax. I have been tracking this issue for several years now and would love to learn more. Do you have specific feedback from committee members beyond newspaper quotes?

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  • John Dovydenas December 24, 2018 at 11:06 am

    “We’ve railed against the bike tax from a policy perspective in the past. Why on earth would Oregon want to tax a form of transportation that adds such tremendous value to our roads and lives?”

    Hey Jonathan, I thought you said this site was just a neutral source of news and wasn’t pro-bike? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this is just too ironic. You think that when something is valuable there should be no tax on it? I mean talk about hypocrisy and moral entitlement. Maybe we should eliminate income tax, because that crimps employment. And also property tax, because home ownership is decreased and rent is increased.

    This line of argument makes you look extremely entitled. As if your some sort of protected class. Meanwhile that vast majority of freight, consumables, and people are transported via petroleum powered vehicles.

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    • X December 26, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      I’m guessing Mr. D isn’t going to put a bicycle on his wine labels any time soon.

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    • q December 26, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      I disagree. Property and income are taxed because those are categories of wealth. The purpose of income and property taxes are not to discourage property ownership or generating income, although the taxation may cause that as a side effect. Other things are taxed to influence behavior (cigarette taxes to discourage smoking) or to recoup costs associated with behaviors (various user taxes).

      The bike tax is the latter, but there’s evidence that people who bike already pay for the roads they use through other taxes, and also that biking has a positive financial impact on transportation infrastructure. So it’s valid to argue that the bike tax doesn’t make sense. Entitlement has nothing to do with it, and there’s no inconsistency in arguing against a bike tax, but being in favor on income or property taxes, or taxes (or fees) aimed at particular activities to recoup costs associated with them.

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    • q December 26, 2018 at 11:09 pm

      You wrote, “Meanwhile that (sic) vast majority of freight, consumables, and people are transported via petroleum powered vehicles.”

      Yes, that’s true. But isn’t that an argument against the bike tax? The reliance on petroleum powered vehicles has high costs to society. Reducing that reliance (by doing things such as biking instead of driving) would benefit society. So why add a cost to that?

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      • John Dovydenas December 27, 2018 at 8:01 am

        q replies, “The reliance on petroleum powered vehicles has high costs to society.”

        I disagree. I think the benefits outweigh the costs. The vast majority of Portlander’s explicitly or implicitly agree. In the future we will most likely not have cities covered with bike trails and barred to cars. Instead we will have electric self driving cars, and PBOT’s mission of making driving difficult and onerous will be solved by having the car drive these circuitous routes themselves. There is a limit to the amount of children and cargo a bike can carry. A car is what people turn to when they wish to travel beyond the city limits, drive 2 kids to school, or purchase hardware to renovate their house, among the many other uses a car provides.

        How many years will PBOT pursue a car hostile renovation scheme until no further Portlanders are willing to sell their cars or tear out their driveways? Most new construction includes a garage. Those that don’t are from developers wanting to save money and exploiting a zoning loophole.

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        • q December 27, 2018 at 10:30 pm

          I said the costs are high. I didn’t say anything about barring cars from cities, or that cars don’t have benefits for people, or anything else related to what’s in your reply.

          You didn’t say anything to counter anything that I actually wrote.

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        • Ryan December 28, 2018 at 2:46 pm

          You think the benefits outweigh the costs because you don’t realize what ALL the costs are. The majority of Portlanders (and Americans, really) also don’t realize these costs. Even when told, some don’t care, but most others have trouble reconciling it because most of the costs are external – they don’t see it directly so it’s difficult for their brains to make the connection. It’s the same reason why so many drivers rail against cyclists using the streets that “they don’t pay for” while not comprehending that cyclists on the streets are actually saving them money.

          People that use your line of thinking are also the ones that trot out that PBOT is waging a “war on cars” because (some) of their policies to make alternative modes more desirable compared to driving (which, come on, if they were really “waging a war” they could be doing a MUCH better job at this). Sure, most people have cars. But that’s because poor city/street planning in the past has made it nearly impossible in some situations to get around otherwise. Cars used to be the nuisance that the majority of people didn’t want on the streets, but huge amounts of money from certain industries made sure roads got designed around cars, and soon enough PEOPLE were considered the nuisance. Cities growing around this design don’t scale well, but most people around here don’t know any different so they claim that it’s all PBOT’s fault for trying to get people out of their cars. When the reality is that it’s PBOT’s fault for not trying to get people out of their cars a long time ago.

          Motorized vehicles are useful for a lot of things, especially in our current culture of trying to get through life the most lazy way possible. But the costs of this – in both money and lives – completely dwarfs the benefits of how we currently use them.

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  • mark smith December 25, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Is the bottle bill a tax on the poor? Pish Posh. Just work hard to make sure this funny money is routed to the right place, show the rolling coal types “see we are paying” (which we always are/were) and keep calm and carry on.

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