Last week Colorado Politics was the first to tell you about Sen. Ray Scott’s talk on social media about taxing bicycles.
In an interview with us, the Republican pragmatist from Grand Junction said cyclists use the roads just like other forms of transportation, but unlike owners of those other forms of transportation, cyclists pay no taxes to help support the roads or services. Other vehicles, including motorcycles and ATVs, pay gas taxes and vehicle taxes and fees. As expected, the idea is getting pushback from cyclists.
A bike tax passed the Oregon legislature this year, but it was Democrats pushing it and Republicans opposing it.
Scott has a double purpose: to raise some much-needed money for transportation while exposing what he sees as a double-standard. And, thirdly, Scott loves to stir the pot of conversation and debate. He has a wicked sense of humor.
Can a bicycle outrun the tax man forever?
Here’s what Scott said Monday night on Facebook:
I’m a little shocked by the raw nerve I struck with my comments about leveling the playing field between cyclists, ATVs, snowmobiles and watercraft, when it comes to how we treat, and tax, these machines. But maybe I shouldn’t be, given how defensive bicyclists get when anyone raises the apparently politically-incorrect question of whether they benefit from a double standard and ought to pay a fairer share of the cost for the roadways they use with increased frequency. My attempt to start a conversation has been met with hysteria by some and reasonable ideas by others, reflecting a diversity of opinions on the subject that didn’t cut neatly along party or ideological lines.
The Denver Post, for instance, voiced support for bike taxes, while the Grand Junction Sentinel, came out hard against any discussion of the topic. The need to take swipes at me was the only thing both papers apparently agreed on. I’ve heard from normally-tax-averse Republicans supporting some type of tax, fee or assessment on bicyclists, and from Democrats who show zero support, even though their peers in liberal-leaning Oregon already have embraced the idea.
My tracking is showing a 50-50 split on both sides.
The 2018 legislation is still many months away, giving me plenty of time to weigh the wide variety of responses I’ve received and consider next steps. But I’m more convinced than ever, based on the live wire nerve I inadvertently struck when I raised the issue, that this is a debate worth continuing in the down time between legislative sessions, so that any concrete proposals that result can be refined and improved before the General Assembly meets again.
I sincerely appreciate the feedback and responses I’ve received, from all sides, and will be continuing to discuss the issue with colleagues and various stakeholder groups in the time between now and the next session. So keep those cards and letters, those tweets and emails and nasty-grams, coming, folks. This clearly is an issue the Coloradans feel passionately about, and something lawmakers might want to take up when we next meet.
Scott is planting seeds to yield food for thought, but he’ll have a hard time on this one. Cyclists have good friends in the legislature, including passionate riders in both chambers. But he also will have a hard time nailing down all 18 members of the Republican caucus in the Senate. The GOP has only a one-seat majority, but then again Democrats do like a tax for bike lanes and the great outdoors, so don’t count Scott out yet.