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, environmentally-unfriendly 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.”
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