bicycle excise tax
Here’s what the State of Oregon is doing with that tax you pay on the purchase of new bicycles: The Oregon Department of Transportation has just launched a new program that could provide an estimated $14 million to multi-use path projects statewide.
The Oregon Community Paths program is the evolution of the active transportation portion of the state’s Connect Oregon (Lottery-backed) program. When the legislature passed a transportation funding bill in 2017 (HB 2017) they shifted the 7% of Connect Oregon that went to bicycling and walking projects into a separate program named the Multimodal Active Transportation Fund. That fund now also includes revenue from the bicycle excise tax that went into effect in fall 2017 and the federal Transportation Alternatives program.
According to ODOT Tourism and Scenic Byway Program Manager Sandra Hikari the Community Path Fund will start awarding grants in 2021. The $14 million estimate is for a three-year grant cycle ending in 2024. Asked for examples of projects that will compete well for the funds, she pointed to the Bear Creek Greenway in southern Oregon and the Tualatin River Greenway in Washington County. [Read more…]
The latest receipts from Oregon’s bicycle excise tax show that revenue is still lower than lawmakers hoped for.
The $15 tax on new bicycles was one of several taxes passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2017 to raise revenue for transportation projects and programs. It went into effect on January 1st, 2018 and is collected at retail shops at the point of sale. It applies to all bicycles with a value of $200 and over. As part of the law, retailers must file quarterly returns with the Department of Revenue (DOR).
According to DOR, they collected about $500,000 in bike tax revenue during the 2018 calendar year. As of October 2019, they report payments so far this year of about $724,000.
These numbers show an uptick, but the totals fall short of the $1.2 million per year figure lawmakers were given prior to voting on the tax.
Receipts from the first quarter for the $15 tax on new bicycles have been tallied by the Oregon Department of Revenue.
As of May 16th, the agency says they’ve processed about $77,000 in bike tax payments. The tax went into effect on January 1st and first quarter receipts were due April 30th.
The first reporting of figures from the tax came last week from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. They reported a total of $34,065 in gross receipts; but that figure was a bit premature because DOR had only started collecting payments last month. After the BRAIN story broke we contacted DOR asking for an updated number and an estimate of administrative overhead costs.
DOR Communications Operations Manager Joy Krawczyk clarified to us that, “The amount provided to Bicycle Retailer & Industry News was from our monthly agency financial statement and reflected bicycle excise tax payments processed as of April 30, 2018. April 30 was the due date for the first quarter of payments and returns for the new tax, so any payments we received just before, on, or after the due date may not have been included in our April financial statement.”
Without a single word of debate, the nine members of the Joint Committee on Transportation voted in favor of an expansion of Oregon’s bike tax that will result in it covering more children’s bicycles. (UPDATE: As of Saturday, March 3rd the full Oregon House and Senate passed the bill with a total vote margin of 70-10. The bill now awaits Governor Brown’s signature.)
Oregon’s infamous $15 bicycle excise tax goes into effect in just 20 days.
On January 1st, bicycle retailers across the state will have to be registered with the Department of Revenue (DOR) and have systems in place to collect and record the fee. To help make sure shops are ready, DOR has sent notices in the mail and has set up a website with more information.
We’ve been in touch with many Portland-based bike shops to hear how they’re feeling about it. So far we’ve heard a range of opinions. Some shop owners disagree with the tax in principle and/or have concerns about how it will impact their business, while others don’t think it’ll be that big of a deal.
As for the tax itself, the first order of business from the State’s perspective is to educate retailers. In a letter (PDF) sent to shops on December 4th, the DOR laid out the basics of the tax and offered answers to several frequently asked questions.
Until last week, I probably expressed more of my thoughts about Oregon’s new bike tax on Twitter than I had here on the blog.
Sometimes when I have a lot to say about a complicated, or sensitive, or generally unwieldy issue, it’s hard for me to organize all my thoughts into coherent sentences (I know, a bad trait for a writer).
So when a KATU (local ABC affiliate) producer reached out last week and asked if I’d be on their Your Voice, Your Vote show, I was happy to oblige. I was on the Sunday morning news show five years ago and had a great experience. Back then the topic was a proposal to license bicycle riders. After both myself and the man proposing the idea had a chance to explain our views in a neutral setting, the proposal went away and was never heard about again (hmm, I wonder why?).
Then and now, I relished the opportunity to explain my views in a calm and professional format with an experienced broadcast journalist as moderator. It’s the opposite of arguing on the Internet.
After learning about Oregon’s new tax on bicycles, a lawmaker from Colorado says he wants to do the same thing.
ColoradoPolitics.com has reported that “influential” Republican Ray Scott (Grand Junction) wants to introduce his own bike tax bill.
“We will be proposing something similar. They use the roads also,” Scott reportedly posted on his Facebook page after reading a story about the tax in the Washington Times.
As part of his rationale, Scott says other types of vehicles pay a tax so it’s an issue of fairness. “If we’re not going to tax bicycles, then let’s not tax boats, ATVs and every other vehicle out there that already pay all these taxes… how many rights do we give to cyclists that we don’t give to everybody else on the road? I’m asking.” When someone reminded him that bicycles don’t damage the roads, Scott replied, “Snowmobiles don’t hurt the snow, ATV’s don’t hurt the dirt, boats don’t hurt the water and they pay a tax, maybe we should eliminate those taxes.”
So here we go.
The face of bicycling in Oregon isn’t that mad about our state’s new, $15 tax on new bicycles.
U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who served six years in the Oregon House of Representatives and nearly 10 years as a Portland city commissioner, shared via a phone interview yesterday that he feels the tax is a “modest fee” that isn’t that big of a deal when viewed in the light of the overall infrastructure funding package.
I caught up with Blumenauer from his office in Washington D.C. where he’s standing against strong political winds.
“I think this is a really great opportunity for the cycling community to take a step back and think about the bigger picture,” he said.
Blumenauer probably knows more about the “bigger picture” than anyone in the bike advocacy game. He has fought for bicycle-related transportation funding for about 40 years. During that time he’s heard all the anti-bike arguments you can imagine.
“One of the arguments we hear repeatedly is that cyclists don’t have any skin in the game… so there’s been blowback.” Blumenauer thinks the “cyclists don’t pay” argument has only gotten louder as more money has gone to bike projects. During his tenure in politics, Blumenauer has seen Oregon implement the pioneering 1971 “Bicycle Bill” which sets aside 1 percent of all the state’s highway gas tax money for biking and walking infrastructure (which should equal about $3.7 million per year over ten years in the new bill. And federal programs like Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and TIGER grants have funded billions in bike infrastructure. “That’s big money,” he said.
With passage in the Senate today, Oregon’s transportation bill is headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.
We’ve got lots more coverage planned, but there’s one thing that I felt should be singled out. Take a deep breath and consider this: Oregon is now the only state in America with a bicycle excise tax.