Sunday, March 15, 2009

Legislative Update - Week 9: The Bike Tax

Whoo-boy! House Bill 3008 has got the lion's share of attention this week. The most compelling analysis is likely OSU Economics Professor Patrick Emerson. He writes
Perhaps the stupidest public policy idea I have ever heard of is the proposed bike tax. It is not worth talking about the proposal itself as it is not going anywhere and is, as I think I mentioned, stupid. But what is interesting to me is that, in fact, the appropriate public policy is to subsidize bikes, not tax them.
Many of the arguments have a weird airlessness as if no time had passed. The New York Times reported in 1898 that League of American Wheelmen president Isaac B. Potter considered bicycle taxes to fund roads "just as sensible as to tax boots and shoes for wearing the sidewalks, and he called it a tax on the only kind of vehicle that does no injury whatever to the roads." Yes, over a century ago this was a hot issue! More things change, the more they stay the same?...

The BTA also came out strongly against the tax. Here's their statement on Bikeportland.

Bikeportland has extensive coverage here, and here, and an interview with Rep. Krieger here. He'll tag and collect ongoing stories here.

The Oregonian's right-leaning columnist, Elizabeth Hovde writes
Cyclists are part of the transportation solution, not part of the problem. Suggesting that people who commute by bike aren't paying their fair share in Oregon is ridiculous.
Salem residents should remember they just passed a $100 million bond measure, paid by property taxes. Motor vehicle user fees, whether gas taxes, licensing, or registration, don't come close to paying the full cost of the roads. Bicyclists pay for roads through property taxes they pay directly on the houses they own, or through rents and costs of goods passed on by merchants. Bicyclists often own cars. And because of the externalities Emerson points out, bicyclists actually subsidize auto drivers. The interstate highways system alone is a massive subsidy for autoists! BTA Board Member Doug Parrow offers a more extensive analysis here.

[update - Kenji from OBRA also posted a nice letter to his legislators.]

In New Business:
House Bill 2946 - Requires Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission to develop better siting rules and land use planning for public schools, and would promote "walking and bicycling."

House Bill 3137 comes out of the Committee on Transportation. It increases the bicycle allocation from 1% to 2% and also prioritizes transportation funding in order of 1) Repair and Maintenance of existing infrastructure, 2) demand management, 3)modernizing and/or widening, 4) new capacity. New capacity is last! Repair and more efficient use of existing capacity is first! This looks reasonable.

House Bill 3164 - "Establishes Transportation Choices Fund...intended to increase numbers of Oregon employees who commute via mass transit, bicycle or walking."

Old Business:
Senate Bill 267 - no change
Senate Bill 276 - no change
Senate Bill 291 - no change
Senate Bill 292 - no change
Senate Bill 635 - no change
House Bill 2106 - no change
House Bill 2120 - no change (but there must be more hearings scheduled)
House Bill 2681 - Hearing, March 18
House Bill 2690 - It's now on the official schedule for a hearing on March 18th. (Bikeportland's note on the hearing.)
House Bill 2902 - no change
House Bill 2946 - referred to Land Use Committee
House Bill 2971 - Hearing, March 18
House Bill 3008 - referred to Ways and Means Committee

Transportation Committee Hearing Details:
Date: Wednesday-March 18
Time: 1:00 P.M.
Room: HR D

HB 2681 - FIRST PUBLIC HEARING - Adds green, yellow and red bicycle signals to list of traffic control devices.
HB 2690 - FIRST PUBLIC HEARING - Permits person operating bicycle to enter intersection with specified traffic control device without stopping, provided that person operating bicycle slows to safe speed and yields right of way to traffic or pedestrians.
HB 2971 - FIRST PUBLIC HEARING - Increases allocation of State Highway Fund moneys for footpaths and bicycle trails.

Staff respectfully requests that you submit 25 collated copies of written materials at the time of your testimony. Persons making presentations including the use of video, DVD, PowerPoint or overhead projection equipment are asked to contact committee staff 24 hours prior to the meeting.

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