Oregon Passes Bike Tax

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.

About Dave Cieslewicz, Director Emeritus

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

2 thoughts on “Oregon Passes Bike Tax

  1. Interesting news on the Oregon bike tax. What comes to mind for me is that I would have NO problem whatsoever with a tax; I’d even go so far as to make it a yearly tax, and I would like 2 things in return for such a thing – (1) an all-state trails pass included, and (2) enhanced policing and more aggressive prosecution of violations against cyclists in the state.

  2. I second that comment and would also add that if a bike tax were dedicated to funding bike infrastructure that facilitated more bicycle COMMUTING (like protected bike lanes in communities and intercity separated bike lanes) AND if more of a share of general revenue were dedicated to these things (as is the case with motor vehicle facilities – we all pay quite a bit even if we don’t or can’t drive a personal vehicle) then an annual licensing fee and/or small new bike tax might be acceptable. But if it’s just another way to suck in money for roads without better facilities and protections for cyclists, then no.

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