Bike tax leaves Ore­gon rid­ers feel­ing de­flated

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

In Ore­gon, a state known for its avid bi­cy­cling cul­ture, the state Leg­is­la­ture’s ap­proval of the first bike tax in the na­tion has fallen flat with rid­ers.

Demo­cratic Gov. Kate Brown is ex­pected to sign the sweep­ing $5.3 bil­lion trans­porta­tion pack­age, which in­cludes a $15 ex­cise tax on the sale of bi­cy­cles cost­ing more than $200 with a wheel di­am­e­ter of at least 26 inches.

Even though the fund­ing has been ear­marked for im­prove­ments that will ben­e­fit cy­clists, the tax has man­aged to irk both anti-tax Repub­li­cans and en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious bik­ers.

BikePort­land pub­lisher Jonathan Maus called it “an un­prece­dented step in the wrong di­rec­tion.”

“We are tax­ing the health­i­est, most in­ex­pen­sive, most en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, most ef­fi­cient and most eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able form of trans­porta­tion ever de­vised by the hu­man species,” Mr. Maus said.

Ore­gon Repub­li­can Party Chair­man Bill Cur­rier blasted what he de­scribed as Ms. Brown’s “end­less ob­ses­sion with find­ing new and in­no­va­tive ways to take money out of the pock­ets of Ore­gon tax­pay­ers.”

“She just con­tin­ues to view the peo­ple of her state as noth­ing more than a piggy bank to fund her ef­forts to im­pose job-killing poli­cies,” said Mr. Cur­rier in a state­ment. “Now add anti-healthy, en­vi­ron­men­tal­lyun­friendly poli­cies to that list.”

The bike tax is aimed at rais­ing $1.2 mil­lion per year in or­der to im­prove and ex­pand paths and trails for bi­cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans.

Sup­port­ers point out that Ore­gon has no sales tax, which means buy­ers won’t be dinged twice for their new wheels.

Ore­gon re­lies in­stead on its in­come tax, among the high­est in the na­tion at 9.9 per­cent for top marginal­ized in­di­vid­ual fil­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Tax Foun­da­tion.

Two-wheel­ers are a big deal in Ore­gon: Port­land was ranked the third-most bike-friendly city in 2016 by Bi­cy­cling mag­a­zine, cit­ing the 7.2 per­cent of res­i­dents who com­mute by bi­cy­cle.

Bik­ers cheered last year when Port­land passed a four-year, 10-cent-per-gal­lon tax on gaso­line aimed at im­prov­ing roads, but the mea­sure also fu­eled com­plaints that bi­cy­cle rid­ers have failed to pay their share for such projects.

Rep. Earl Blu­me­nauer, Ore­gon Demo­crat, de­fended the state bike tax, call­ing it a “mod­est fee” that raises the pro­file of the bi­cy­cling com­mu­nity in the trans­porta­tion de­bate.

“One of the ar­gu­ments we hear re­peat­edly is that cy­clists don’t have any skin in the game … so there’s been blow­back,” Mr. Blu­me­nauer told BikePort­land.

The Street Trust, a Port­land pro-bike group, praised the over­all trans­porta­tion pack­age while say­ing that the bike tax “sends the wrong mes­sage to those try­ing to help.”

“Let’s be frank: This bike tax is very dis­ap­point­ing,” said The Street Trust’s Ro­main Bonilla. “It’s also well worth the in­vest­ments in bike safety and ac­ces­si­bil­ity. There are more op­por­tu­ni­ties ahead for us to stand up for our shared pri­or­i­ties and mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive im­pact of the bike tax.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ore­gon Gov. Kate Brown is ex­pected to sign the sweep­ing $5.3 bil­lion pack­age, which in­cludes a $15 ex­cise tax on the sale of bi­cy­cles cost­ing more than $200.

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