Scott: Pay to pedal
Senator floats bicycle tags or excise tax to raise funds
Sen. Ray Scott is peddling a state tax on bicycles, but he might be spinning his wheels.
In President Trump-like fashion, Grand Junction’s GOP state senator went onto social media this week saying he is considering introducing a measure into next year’s legislative session similar to one Oregon approved earlier this month, to put an excise tax on the sale of bicycles.
“We will be proposing something similar,” Scott posted. “They use the roads also.”
Later, the senator suggested that instead of a tax, maybe the state should require bicycles to have license plates, paying the state a fee to get them.
His posts say he’s just spit-balling, and wants to know what people think about the concept, saying that bicycles are using the roads but paying nothing to maintain them.
While some expressed support for both ideas, many didn’t, even questioning whether Scott has suddenly become a Democrat.
“I have to tag my dirt bikes, ATVs and our Razor — anything off road — which 60 percent goes to shut the roads down. It’s past time for the bikers to pay their way as well,” Grand Junction resident Joe Jarvis posted on Scott’s Facebook page.
“One could argue that it is a targeted taxation, which would mainly penalize bicycle sales, both from the retailer standpoint and the consumer standpoint,” responded Grand Junction resident Michelle Hamm Long. “In that regard, we’re talking a smaller percentage of the public that would be subjected to the tax. I believe you would see a decrease in sales revenue, which would hurt bicycle businesses and an increase in used bicycle sales to avoid the tax.”
The Oregon model, which goes into effect Jan. 1, calls for assessing a flat rate of $15 for any bicycle with a wheel diameter of 26 inches or more that is sold retail for $200 or more.
Money collected from the tax is to go toward grants that expand and improve commuter routes for non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians.
Two bike store owners in Grand Junction say the idea to tax bicycle sales or require licenses not only would hurt their businesses, but also fly in the face of economic development efforts to promote the very district Scott represents.
Tim Fry, owner and president of Eko Sports, 580 N. Westgate Drive, said he understands where Scott is coming from, the sense that bicycles get a free ride and don’t pay for the upkeep of the roads they use.
But the senator isn’t seeing the big picture, one part of which is that bicycles take cars off the road, Fry said.
“The benefits that come from that is getting people out of cars and onto trails, the health benefits, the congestion, the pollution,” he said. “If you take his argument that we’re giving cyclists a free ride far enough, we’re building a lot of infrastructure for people to walk on sidewalks. I guess we’ve gotta put a license sticker on everyone’s (back side).”
Fry, who also is chairman of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said Scott’s idea goes against local and state efforts to push outdoor recreation as an economic driver.
“In economic development terms, momentum is key, and we’ve got a lot of momentum right now,” Fry said. “This would certainly put pressure in the public domain that would be the opposite of that.”
Bryan Miick, part owner of The Bike Shop, 950 North Ave., said bicycles are already subject to a sales tax.
“We already pay a tax on a bicycle when you sell it, now they want to add an extra fee for something that we’re already paying a tax on. It’s like double taxation,” Miick said. “I understand that the car needs a place to drive, and that requires maintenance. The catch is, the bicycle isn’t doing that kind of damage to the roadway.”
While Scott said he’s serious about looking at the issue, he says he’s collecting opinions on social media.
While some of them support the idea, others don’t.
“Certain roads are not wide enough for vehicles and bicycles, therefore, bicyclists should not be allowed on those narrow roads or an accident can happen,” wrote Fruita resident Greg Smith. “If bicyclists want to go up narrow roads, we need to tax bicyclists to afford to be able to widen the road and make a bike lane for them!”
Grand Junction resident Betty Beidelschies posted that cyclists already pay taxes, and lawmakers should focus on other things, such as jobs and the economy.
Grand Junction resident Ken Richard said he opposes the idea, questioning how it would be enforced.
“Whether it’s a tax or a license plate, who is going to enforce it? The police?” Richard wrote. “They don’t even have time to track stolen cars let alone watch every bike on the road to make sure they have a plate.
“No, the cost to enforce this would outweigh the revenue generated from it.”
Martin Wiesiolek of Grand Junction said he wrote a response to one of Scott’s postings only to see the senator delete it and block him from posting more.
Initially, Wiesiolek wrote: “Sen. Scott is a disgrace to Colorado.”
Before deleting it, Scott responded: “I’m fed up with idiots that have no idea what your their (sic) talking about.”