Sen. Ray Scott calls for tax on bicycles to help pay for Colorado roads
Author: Joey Bunch - July 19, 2017 - Updated: June 21, 2018
Senate Republicans in the last legislative session wouldn’t allow any new taxes to pay for roads, but Sen. Ray Scott has found one he can embrace: taxing bicycles.
Scott, an influential Republican from Grand Junction, first made the announcement on Facebook Wednesday morning, atop a Washington Times story about Oregon becoming the first to implement a statewide tax on bicycles.
“We will be proposing something similar,” Scott posted. “They use the roads also.”
In an interview with Colorado Politics, Scott said he’s soliciting feedback to see if it’s viable, but he’s serious in his consideration.
“One way to get feedback is to put it out there and see where it goes,” he said.
Every other vehicle has a tax or sticker, but bicycles, which are ubiquitous on Colorado roads, get a free pass, even though they often have dedicated lanes, law enforcement and other taxpayer-funded public services.
“Maybe we should start from the other direction,” Scott said. “If we’re not going to tax bicycles, then let’s not tax boats, ATVs and every other vehicle out there that already pay all these taxes … how many rights do we give to cyclists that we don’t give to everybody else on the road? I’m asking.”
In Oregon, Democrats included a $15 excise tax on the sale of bicycles that cost more than $200 with a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches, so kids bikes are exempt. The tax was promoted by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.
According to Fox News, Oregon Republican Party Chairman Billy Currier called out Brown for “anti-healthy, environmentally-unfriendly policies” who “continues to view the people of her state as nothing more than a piggy bank to fund her efforts to impose job-killing policies.”
Sen. Andy Kerr, a Democrat from Lakewood and a cycling enthusiast, didn’t think much of Scott’s idea.
“So the Republican Party now wants to put a special tax on my 13-year-old, who rides an adult bike?” he said. “Do they want to tax all students who ride their bikes to school, or anyone who likes to use their bike to get to work?
“Utterly ridiculous. People riding their bikes helps get people out of their cars, which in turn reduces traffic and wear-and-tear on our roads. We should be working to expand transportation options, and not decrease them with an anti-business, anti-freedom policy this Republican ‘bike tax’ would be.”
Sen. Mike Merrifield from Colorado Springs, another cycling Democrat, said the proposal is misguided.
“We should be encouraging people to go biking, not making it more difficult and expensive,” he said.
In the last session, House Bill 1242, co-sponsored by Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City, would have imposed 0.50 sales tax for transportation projects statewide, which lawmakers for most of the session called their top priority.
Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee killed the legislation out of the opposition to the tax.
Scott’s post Wednesday morning drew more replies than likes.
“I own 3 houses in CO, have 4 cars registered here too,” replied Susan Shepherd, the former Denver City Council member. “Hubby is the senior-most biz partner of a firm that has $3-4 M in annual earnings. We pay tons in taxes annually, several times the annual salary of a state legislator. Why should I have to pay an extra tax when my kid and I are bicycling on roads and streets? CDOT and municipalities need to get their priorities straight!!!”
Grand Junction orchard owner Josie Bolton posted in reply to Scott that bicycles shouldn’t be taxed because they don’t damage the roads.
Scott replied to the post, “Snowmobiles don’t hurt the snow, ATV’s don’t hurt the dirt, boats don’t hurt the water and they pay a tax, maybe we should eliminate those taxes.”
Editor’s note: This blog was updated to include comments from Colorado Politics’ interview with Scott after his Facebook post, and again to add reaction from Kerr and Merrifield. Also I corrected that it was the Senate Finance Committee, not the Senate Transportation Committee that spiked the bill.