Now here’s an oddity: a Republican who favors a new tax, in this case one on bicycles that cost more than $500.
The idea actually came from Democrats in Washington state who proposed a $25 fee on higher-end bicycles as part of a $10 billion transportation package that would also raise taxes on gasoline and cars in the state. Bike shop owner Dale Carson wrote to his state representative, Ed Orcutt, to complain about the tax, but Orcutt said he supports it.
In an email to Carson, Orcutt, a member of the State Transportation Committee, wrote that bicyclists aren’t paying for roads because they don’t pay any gas or transportation taxes: “So, if cars pay for the roads they are using, it only makes sense that bicyclists would also be required to pay for the ‘roads’ [bike lanes] they used when they are actually biking on them.”
He then responded to an assertion made by Carson that bikes are environmentally friendly and therefore shouldn’t be taxed at a higher rate. “But if I am not mistaken,” Orcutt wrote, “a cyclists has [sic] an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride.”
The email earned Orcutt derision at a number of biking-related websites and blogs. “Though he ignored the reality that most cyclists likely own gas-fueled cars, the state congressman didn’t go so far as to suggest a shoe tax on pedestrians as well,” Courtney Buchanan wrote at Bicycling.com.
This week Orcutt backed off a bit. In an email to his constituents and received by Reuters he wrote, “My point was that by not driving a car, a cyclist was not necessarily having a zero-carbon footprint… In looking back, it was not a point worthy of even mentioning so, again, I apologize.” He doesn’t appear to have backed off from the idea that bicyclists should be taxed, though. As the Huffington Post reported, an extra 5 percent tax would come on top of state and local sales taxes, bringing the tax rate on a high-end bike to 14.5 percent.
Interestingly, Orcutt actually voiced opposition to the transportation tax package when it was proposed last month: “Our priority is that we need to spend the next two years drilling down into the cost drivers, and figure out how to make our tax dollars go further, and we should make sure our tax dollars go further before we reach further into the taxpayers’ pocket,” he told the Seattle Times.
By John Platt, from MNN.com