Bike tax is a bad idea
If you haven’t read Peter Hessler’s latest contribution to The New Yorker, you’re missing a highly nuanced examination of how President Trump’s brand of populism has rubbed off on the Western Slope.
The piece recounts a spat between our state Sen. Ray Scott and this newspaper over the term “fake news.” Scott, according to Hessler, “believed that Trump has performed a service by popularizing the term” which Scott included in some Trump-style tweets in response to a Sentinel editorial to which he objected.
“I was kind of Trumpish before Trump was cool,” Scott says in Hessler’s article.
Knowing Scott’s affinity for the president’s from-the-hip style of culture-wars messaging, it’s hard to know whether his latest tweet is a serious policy dive or just self-promotion.
Scott has thrown his support behind a bicycle tax after Oregon passed one as part of its latest transportation funding bill.
This is a bad idea for several reasons. But if there’s no such thing as bad publicity, Scott’s winning the fame game as his comments were quickly reported by coloradopolitics.com and a Washington Post blog.
The Oregon tax charges $15 for every new adult bike purchased over the cost of $200. Scott’s reaction via Twitter and Facebook: Maybe we should tax bikes in Colorado, too, or repeal taxes on boats, ATVs and other motorized vehicles.
“.... how many rights do we give to cyclists that we don’t give everybody else on the road? I’m asking,” he told the Colorado Springs Gazette.
He should also be asking how many cyclists own cars and trucks. It’s a preposterous notion that most cyclists avoid paying taxes to support infrastructure.
The whole thing is topsy-turvy. The Oregon tax was promoted by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and criticized by the state’s GOP chairman as a liberal money grab. Yet, here’s Scott, a self-styled anti-tax Republican, advocating for a new tax. In fairness to Scott’s agenda, however, it looks to be more of a gambit to leverage tax breaks on petroleum-consuming vehicles in the state.
There’s some strange posturing by bicycle advocates who support the Oregon tax, saying it neutralizes complaints that cyclists get a free pass on infrastructure costs and road maintenance.
Such a tax in Colorado flies in the face of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s initiatives to make Colorado the No. 1 cycling and biking state in the nation. If anything, bicycle purchases should receive a tax credit because they mitigate so many problems. They reduce congestion while causing few traffic problems. They promote a healthy lifestyle. They don’t consume fossil fuels or generate harmful emissions. They don’t impact roads.
Cyclists probably wouldn’t even mind paying the tax, provided it went to construct bike lanes and commuter paths. We’ll have to wait and see what Scott has in mind.
But if his idea is simply to punish people who can get from point A to point B by bypassing gas pumps, we’ll have to rate this among Scott’s greatest hits — of wrongheaded thinking.