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Advocates sound alarm as E-BIKE Act gets watered down on Capitol Hill


Elected officials and their staff joined e-bike advocates for a bike ride in Portland on September 10th.
(Photo: Kiel Johnson/Electric Bikes for All)

This week the U.S. House of Representatives has hosted “markup” sessions on the Build Back Better infrastructure bill and bike advocates say there’s a threat the E-Bike Act could get even weaker or be jettisoned altogether.

You might recall that it was Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer who introduced the legislation back in February. As first written H.R. 1019 would create a new tax credit to incentivize the purchase of electric bikes. The credit would refund taxpayers 30% of the cost of an electric bike (up to $1,500 or $3,000 for joint returns) for purchases up to $8,000.

Now advocates say the bill (which has since been introduced in the Senate as S.2420) has already been watered down and needs support to survive. In an action alert sent to members late Tuesday night, The Street Trust said the House Ways and Means Committee has already slashed the credit in half to just 15% of the purchase price.

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According to an update from the Systemic Failure blog on September 12th,

“the bill has gone into the Legislative buzzsaw of the House Ways and ‘Means-Testing’ Committee, and has been significantly watered down — to the point of being largely useless. The e-Bike refundable tax credit is now just 15% of the purchase price, capped at $1,500 total. And the credit phases out starting at $75,000 of adjusted gross income.

For comparison, the same bill would provide a $12,000 subsidy for the purchase of a $74,000 F150 electric pickup truck to a family with $800,000 annual income.”

And here’s the full section from the House Ways and Means Committee section-by-section breakdown:

(Source: House Ways and Means Committee Subtitle F – Infrastructure Financing and Community Development)

The Street Trust is part of the E Bikes For All coalition, a lobby group made up of nearly two dozen organizations and businesses in the Portland metro area that meets monthly. The group has recently begun hosting bike rides with elected officials to expose them to e-biking’s benefits and boost support for e-bike policy.

Electric Bikes For All has launched a campaign to urge Oregonians to contact Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and tell them to support and protect the E-Bike Act. Here’s a snip from the letter:

“… the fully refundable tax credit can open up new mobility and access for many people. Even the most expensive electric bike is substantially cheaper than a new car, making it possible – especially with a tax credit – for people who cannot afford to drive to buy an electric bike… By passing the E-BIKE ACT we can increase access to this useful, low-carbon, and low-cost way for people to get around. We urge you to sponsor this legislation.”

National nonprofit People for Bikes says a tax credit for e-bikes is smart climate policy because, “It will ultimately will make it easier for millions of Americans to displace a bulk of their passenger vehicle emissions with clean, easy riding.”

Markup sessions are happening right now so if you support this legislation it’s crucial that you reach out and tell these Senators how you feel. You can easily add your name to the letter and send it to Merkley and Wyden’s offices here.

UPDATE, 3:00 pm: People for Bikes reports that the e-bike tax credit has survived House markup. Here’s their statement about how it has changed since its introduction in February:

“Supporters who have followed the E-BIKE Act since it was introduced in February will notice that these differences shrink the credit from 30% without income restrictions. As fierce advocates for the original bill, we acknowledge that a lesser credit isn’t ideal, but we still celebrate the fact that a brand new tax credit for electric bicycles made it this far. We’ll continue to fight for the most effective policy available while working within the political reality.”

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