Biking

Oregon Passes Bike Tax

$15 on purchase of new bike. Will Wisconsin follow suit?

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Jul 14th, 2017 11:23 am
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Bike boxes at 68th and North Avenue.

Bike boxes at 68th and North Avenue.

Oregon has become the first state to pass a tax aimed at bicycles.

BikePortland reports that as part of an omnibus transportation budget, the Oregon legislature created a $15 flat tax on the purchase of new bicycles with a 26-inch or larger wheel diameter and valued at $200 or more. The tax is expected to produce $1.2 million in annual revenue and cost $100,000 per year to administer. Proceeds go into a fund that will help build bike commuting infrastructure.

The tax was enacted despite opposition from advocates and bike retailers. It is expected to go into effect in October.

The Bike Fed is watching this closely because Wisconsin is now one of only three states that has not yet passed its budget and the biggest disagreement is over transportation funding. The state Assembly leadership believes it’s time for a transportation tax increase to fill a projected one billion dollar gap over the next two years while Governor Scott Walker and the state Senate oppose any tax increase. Both houses are controlled by Republicans. Minority Democrats have indicated support for some form of tax increase. The budget was supposed to pass by July 1st, but the state continues to operate under the old spending plan.

The Bike Fed joined retailers and the bike industry in opposing a similar $25 tax floated during the budget process two years ago. That idea never was even introduced to be voted on. However, Rep. John Nygren, the co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance Committee and the legislator behind the bike tax proposal, is still in that position.

While Rep. Nygren has not proposed a bike tax this time and while we have not heard any rumblings about that from other legislators, we continue to be vigilant. It’s entirely possible that a transportation budget could fall together quickly and behind closed doors and so there’s no telling what might be in the final product.

We recently polled our members on this topic and we found that about 80% could support some form of voluntary or involuntary bike tax. However, our view is that we need advocates, the Wisconsin bike industry and retailers to be on the same page before anything should move forward. Sticking something in the budget without working with those three groups would prompt strong opposition from us.

Dave Cieslewicz is the executive director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed and former mayor of the city of Madison.

5 thoughts on “Biking: Oregon Passes Bike Tax”

  1. JPKMKE says:

    Seems like the grief this will generate for the state will outweigh the 1.1M in net revenue the program will create.

  2. Rich says:

    I only support a bike tax that funds bike infrastructure through a segregated fund untouchable by transfers, else this is a tax increase to plug a really tiny part of the giant hole in the road fund. R’s want the same segregation for the road fund, so this desire is not off base.

    But it needs to be effectively run and messaged. $1.1M dribbled out to munis for a curb fix or green paint here or there does not a make a good bike program and $1.1M probably doesn’t build that many miles of trail or boulevard either. This reality can be offset with messaging and coupling to local support — set a goal and watch the funds build up to it; people can rally around goals.

  3. Jason Troll says:

    Considering the Walker and Wisconsin Republican brand of not raising or creating new taxes my guess is it will not happen.

  4. daniel golden says:

    The Grover Norquist “no-new taxes” posse in the GOP legislature is the only reason this would not fly in Wisconsin. The new “fee” would be on a group of voters that the Republicans have not traditionally given a damn about-the silent sport crowd. However, never say never and never say always-remember; this legislature is never at a loss for loony ideas for regressive legislation. Rather than seeing bicyclists and bike commuters as reducing pressure on public roads, they see the loss of dollars spent on their fossil fuel sponsor’s products. Keep an eye on Vos and Fitzgerald as if they were pregnant rattlesnakes.

  5. “The power to tax is the power to destroy”. So I am in favor of raising funds through taxing automobiles more so that we can shift our transportation choices to mass transit and bicycles. The gas tax, parking rates, wheel taxes, car sales taxes..others… all are ways to use the pocket book to shift choices.

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