The State of Oregon has no sales tax, which is one reason why so many people call the state home. But that may change, at least for bicycle buyers. The Oregon state legislature recently pushed through a massive (for Oregon) tax measure that raises fees on automobile registrations, taxes, fuel, and charges bicycle retailers a 15-dollar tax on every bicycle they sell with a sticker price over $200, and 26-inch or larger wheels. E-bikes will be taxed one-half percent of their selling price. The bill sailed through both houses and is now on the Governor Kate Brown's desk, who is expected to happily sign it into law.
By government estimates, the bill will shake down the citizens of Oregon for a whopping 5.3 billion dollars for transportation spending, with bicycle retailers getting squeezed for an estimated 1.2 million per year which by far, is the tiniest slice of the pie. According to the State of Oregon, the bicycle tax will be earmarked for infrastructure like bike ways and pedestrian paths. No mention was made, however, about off-road trails.
Predictably, Oregon's cycling community is up in arms about being dinged 15 bucks on a one-time purchase, and there can be no doubt that, if the Beaver State is successful, greedy governments throughout the USA will follow suit. As usual, however, there are two sides to the issue. How often do we fly the "Share the Road" flag without any consideration for sharing the costs to maintain them?
Gasoline taxes in California alone are the equivalent of driving down the freeway and tossing $2.25 out the window every 60 minutes. Count cars on the road and you may arrive at the conclusion, that Oregon's fifteen buck a bike tax is a ceremonial levy to assure automobile-driving taxpayers who will be doing the heavy lifting (and the heavy using), that cyclists are finally raising money instead of awareness.
The sweet lemonade that could pour forth from Oregon's bike tax may be that off-road cyclists will be able to leverage their contributions to pressure lawmakers to fund mountain bike trails. The tax does not discriminate between mountain or road bikes and so far, the revenue is set to be spent on paved improvements. Armed with the numbers, Oregon's mountain bike community may be a be able to make a good case to squeeze some trail funding from the state's coffers. Portland would be a great place to begin - where mountain bikers have traditionally been given the short end of the stick.
Time will tell if taxation leads to greater representation for Oregon's mountain bikers.