October 12, 2006
Tax Policy Head On
It's been remarked more than once recently that we seem to be repeating some of the same arguments over and over. I'm going to try to segment out some of those to highlight them in their own threads, so we can have the definitive discussion and then hopefully move on and not need to repeat these on other posts.
So let's talk about taxes and tolls. A common argument we seem to have is that gas taxes are user fees, and using them to fund bicycle or pedestrian facilities on roads is inappropriate (using the state gas tax, which is constitutionally restricted to roads). And then there is the 'siphoning off' of the federal gas tax for transit uses.
A similar argument says that if a bridge is tolled for cars and trucks, it should be tolled for bikes and pedestrians too.
I have a different view, which is that taxes are NOT user fees, they are both part of citizenship, contributing to the greater good of the community, and a policy tool, useful for discouraging things that have negative consequences, possibly also helping subsidize things that provide benefits to the community.
Since I believe that excessive reliance on cars is detrimental to our society (note that I'm not saying cars are bad in general), I have no problem if gas taxes and tolls are sometimes used to fund bike lanes, sidewalks or transit.
Excessive reliance on autos creates large roads that divide communities and detract from our landscape, pollutes our air (and water to some degree with runoff) and contributes to negative public health outcomes (asthma and obesity as examples).
Cycling and walking contribute to positive health outcomes and are very efficient uses of the public right-of-way from the point of view of use of space and energy. Transit is also a more efficient use of space (especially when you factor in the parking requirements for cars at both end of a trip). The energy benefits vary depending on the type of transit. It's also worth keeping in mind that almost every transit trip includes a walking component as well.
To me there is a very clear analogy to schools. I've never had kids in the Portland Public Schools (because of custody arrangements, my step-kids have gone to school in other districts or in private schools), but I faithfully pay my property taxes to support schools in my district (and through equalization, the whole state) and vote YES on school levies, even though I don't have a direct benefit. I believe that public education is vital to a civil society and I cheerfully pay up. If I just looked at it as a user fee, I'd have my hand out for a refund.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it, gas taxes and tolls are policy tools, not just user fees. Bring it on!
October 12, 2006 12:20 AM
Frank Dufay Says:
but I faithfully pay my property taxes to support schools in my district...
Not exactly a voluntary contribution.
Smart-ass comment aside, I think it's clear that we pay for things that don't directly benefit us all the time. All the whining and gnashing of teeth over bike and ped use of streets --they're not paying their fair share!--is just sorta silly. We pay for government...government decides what and how that money is spent. We may not like those decisions, but we don't have user fees for the air we breath, but you gotta believe government has a role --and it costs money, indeed-- in keeping that air safe and breathable. For all of us.
October 12, 2006 8:41 AM
Michael Wilson Says:
Okay I'll bite. What if you are being taxed for something that you don't need? The government basically killed off the private transit market over the years. Now it has taken on the job, but in my opinion does so badly. Should I object to the taxes?
How about the barriers that government has raised that keep private businesses out of the marketplace? Is it fair to consider them?
October 12, 2006 8:45 AM
Ok, the whole dissassociation from value comes up.
"excessive reliance on cars" is bad, and IS perpetuated by the mere thing you want to use to manipulate the behavior, tax policy.
The original intention of the gas tax (and others) was as a usage fee. But perpetuating a tax to build a maintain a politically based pull system is also horribly inneffecient and biased AGAINST usage.
So regardless of "what" the tax should be doing; used as a manipulator of peoples, as a punisher of bad doers (car drivers), or as a subsidy of some system (Trimet for instance) in ALL cases it is being used for the EXACT purposes that perpetuate to the downfall of the Union and the United States in general. Taxes are abused by a minority (usually some special interest) and payed by a majority (all of us who don't have enough time to fight with the city/state/fed all the time).
"A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine."
Then of course there is the quote which is a practical truism against a democracy (A republic theoretically protects against such).
Once a group figures out they can vote themselves money and special interests, the downfall of the Democracy is at hand.
So either which way, tax policy and usage is simply a manipulator used mostly be "I can run you better than you" types.
...on top of all that, why is it people are so scared to toll/privatize the roads more? Why not have it be user based? If they want to decrease car / SOV usage nothing better and more powerful exists than the market itself. If the subsidy went away the market would have more money circulating hands and less people driving!
Any ideas on that one?
October 12, 2006 8:54 AM
On a quick note of the "public school" voluntary funding...
This is another huge problem that has gotten out of hand (again, usually because of Union mob rule). I personally would rather make a significant portion go to private schools instead of the decrepit joke that public education provides.
Being the worse education one can get from Private schools is around Mississippi (I know, I lived there unfortunately), but however provide a superior education than ORegon's/Portland's public schools for about 2/3rds the price (corrected for cost of living expenses) I would say there is a HUGE problem with paying taxes willingly to fund public schools.
At the end of the day all we acheive is a mediocre education system with often times strange and non-preferred views on education being pushed upon the children of America. Breeding at the end of the day a not so smart, less than should be capable, uncompetitive (in global markets) work force that has cost unreasonable amounts of money.
The only thing that saves us in the end is our colleges and again in that same vein most that do the work are not the money subsidized liberal arts programs. America is lucky we still stalwarts of progress and productivity such as Harvard, MIT, and such.
October 12, 2006 10:39 AM
Chris Smith Says:
Adron, I agree with your comment about the tyranny of the majority. For the small 'r' republican form of government to protect us from that we need an informed electorate. And of course the initiate system is a major disabler of republican government.
But neither do I believe the market is the be-all answer. The market is subject to abuses too (just look at CEO pay). And the market has no mandate to provide equity as an outcome.
So I believe we will always get the best overall outcome from a hybrid of government and market forces counterbalancing the work excesses of either. Which reinforces my view that taxes need to be a policy tool.
October 12, 2006 3:07 PM
Terry Parker Says:
A “A common argument we seem to have is that gas taxes are user fees, and using them to fund bicycle or pedestrian facilities on roads is inappropriate (using the state gas tax, which is constitutionally restricted to roads). And then there is the 'siphoning off' of the federal gas tax for transit uses. A similar argument says that if a bridge is tolled for cars and trucks, it should be tolled for bikes and pedestrians too.”
B It is my understanding a past overly liberal state legislature set aside 1% for bicycle infrastructure. However, the tax that is paid on the purchase of motor fuels is paid only by drivers, and NOT paid by all others who use and benefit from a good roads system. Transit users benefit from good roads even though fares cover only 20% of operation costs, but pay nothing towards the majority of streets and roads busses travel on. Bicyclists that directly contribute zero dollars towards bicycle infrastructure also benefit from good streets and roads, even if they are not using exclusive infrastructure that motorists can not use, but subsidize. All users, motorists, freight carriers, transit users, bicyclists and pedestrians also receive a direct benefit from good bridges. Simply, it allows any user to cross the river or other barrier. Another way of putting it, society in general benefits from good roads and bridges.
A “I have a different view, which is that taxes are NOT user fees, they are both part of citizenship, contributing to the greater good of the community, and a policy tool, useful for discouraging things that have negative consequences, possibly also helping subsidize things that provide benefits to the community.”
B I would agree taxes are part of citizenship and in many (not all) cases contributing to the greater good of the community. Taxes however should NOT be used as a policy tool to control the way citizens choose to live and move about in a free society. What is negative to one person may not be negative to another. Using taxes as a policy tool is nothing less than socialism. Subsidies should be limited to people truly in need of assistance.
A “Since I believe that excessive reliance on cars is detrimental to our society (note that I'm not saying cars are bad in general), I have no problem if gas taxes and tolls are sometimes used to fund bike lanes, sidewalks or transit.”
B Gasoline taxes and taxes on other motor fuels came into being as a user tax to pay for roads when the majority of motor vehicles used a similar amount of fuel for the miles traveled as compared to the weight of the vehicle. If the motorist fuel taxes of today are expected to support the roads and other infrastructure for all modes of surface travel too, and no longer considered a user fee, such a system of taxation has become obsolete. It places too much “excessive reliance” on one user mode of transport to subsidize other user modes of transport. As previously stated, part of citizenship is paying taxes, and since good roads contribute to the greater good and benefit of the entire community, all citizens should be taxed for roads. As I view the matter, two choices exist: either continue charging user fees and include direct user taxes, fees and tolls where tolls are charged on all modes of transport (including transit and the bicycle mode of transport), or dump all taxes (including the gas tax) that only apply to motor vehicles and charge every Oregon resident a flat rate transportation system tax.
A ”reliance on autos creates large roads that divide communities and detract from our landscape”
B Good roads and highways actually connect communities by reducing travel times thereby bringing both communities and people closer together. Jobs tied to and in the auto industry provide family wage jobs that increase the vitality of the economy (more so than other modes of personal travel) while not being taxpayer subsidized. Depending on design, spacious streets and roads can either be used to separate neighborhoods (in some cases desired), or viewed as bringing people, business and vitality into neighborhoods. Whether or not a road detracts from the landscape is a matter of opinion. Big windmills that generate electricity can also be viewed as detracting from the landscape. The community divide is how to pay for roads whereby the users of some modes of transport want to share the road, but not share the financial responsibility of a good citizen.
As for the various other aspects of driving vs another mode of transport, they vary from person to person. Who’s to say what benefits one person’s health, environmental outlook or energy use is, as compared to another person. This is a diverse America where people are all individuals with differences. Currently we provide ammenities for people with disabilities. The health of many people, not just those with disabilities, includes driving. Our forefathers immigrated to this country at sometime or another to get away from in many cases over bearing ruling governments that wanted to control their lives and where opportunities were often limited with respect to earning a decent living wage. Our military has fought in many wars to protect the freedoms we as citizens is this country currently have. Freedom of mobility mode is an individual choice, and NOT one that should be made or even influenced by government taxation policies.
Finally, since the topic was brought up about schools; the schools should not be asking for additional money through property tax levies until such time schools receive the school portion of property taxes in urban renewal districts, all property tax abatements are eliminated, and all the good citizens who live in or own tax abated properties accept the responsibility of being good citizens and pay their full share of property taxes that help pay for the schools and other government services. The exception for tax abatements would be on truly low income housing. Furthermore, the schools should be doing what ever is possible to retain neighborhood schools in all Portland neighborhoods. This last round of school closures was extremely discriminatory whereby working class neighborhoods had their schools closed or consolidated into a another neighborhood’s school, well-to-do neighborhoods had their schools taken off the closure list while impoverished neighborhoods received additional money pumped in for their schools. In North Portland for example, a low income neighborhood received a new school. Furthermore the schools should also be doing what ever is possible and making choices that reduce operating expenses including readdressing excessive upper-administrative salaries.
October 12, 2006 4:35 PM
Ross Williams Says:
It is my understanding a past overly liberal state legislature set aside 1% for bicycle infrastructure
Uh, no. That would be the voters who did that in the state constitution.
What is negative to one person may not be negative to another.
You can say that about anything. The reality is that in a democracy we decide collectively what we want to do with our taxes and we use them to encourage things we collectively think are positive and discourage things we collectively think are negative.
Gasoline taxes and taxes on other motor fuels came into being as a user tax
No, they came into being as a tax when the majority of people decided that old dirt roads were negative and they needed some way to pay for improving the road network. By tying it to the gas tax, the amount of money increased roughly as the use of the roads increased.
In fact, we have quite an extensive road network that takes us almost everywhere we want to go. The problem is that some people want to get there faster, but the cost of that is prohibitive.
The result is that we are no longer even maintaining the current road network, while spending large sums of money on trying to placate the folks that think it is their god-given right to to go anywhere, anytime at 55-65 mph. And anyone who suggests otherwise is a bike-loving pedestrian with socialist tendencies who is against freedom.
October 12, 2006 5:31 PM
Terry Parker Says:
A “The reality is that in a democracy we decide collectively what we want to do with our taxes and we use them to encourage things we collectively think are positive and discourage things we collectively think are negative.”
The reality is that in a democracy we also decide collectively who pays the taxes, but I have yet to see a public vote up or down on directly taxing bicyclists to pay or help pay for bicycle infrastructure. Hardcore bicycle advocates like those in the BTA have kept it off the funding table. Furthermore, the BTA is not an elected public body and therefore can not speak for or represent anybody other than its own membership.
I also do not recall public vote on Portland’s tax abatement policies, or any extension or formation of urban renewal districts all of which have an impact on other peoples property taxes, the schools and city services.
The fact is majority or minority, whoever has the loudest well funded mouthpiece sets policy. This can hardly be called collective thinking.
October 12, 2006 5:38 PM
Ross Williams Says:
I have yet to see a public vote up or down on directly taxing bicyclists to pay or help pay for bicycle infrastructure.
Oregon has an initiative process. All you need to do is collect the signatures and you can put anything on the ballot. I don't think you will find much support for your idea and I don't think you should.
October 12, 2006 5:55 PM
Chris Smith Says:
Taxes however should NOT be used as a policy tool to control the way citizens choose to live and move about in a free society.
Well, Terry, we've identified a key area where we disagree.
Now I hope we can agree to disagree and not have to repeat this disagreement in every other post that has anything to do with funding.
October 12, 2006 6:02 PM
Chris Smith Says:
I did not intend that this should become a thread about school funding or particularly about the measure currently on the ballot. I'm happy to have that debate, but on some other blog more appropriate to the issue.
The analogy I was trying to make it to how we fund things. So let me try to make the analogy a little more abstract:
Schools: funded by all property owners (local property tax) and most income earners (state income tax - at least since a majority of us passed Measure 5). Beneficiary: all students in public schools (or since kids don't pay taxes, their parents).
Now most parents will be also being paying one or both of those taxes, so we can say that as a society we have voted to have most people be taxed to pay for the needs of a subset.
Transportation: funded by all drivers (gas tax). Beneficiaries: drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders (I'm combining federal and state gas taxes here).
Since we have 1 car for every 1.1 people here in Oregon it's safe to say that almost all of us pay gas tax. Indeed, most cyclists and transit riders also drive at least some of the time. And of course, every driver is a pedestrian some of the time.
So I would say the connection between payers and beneficiaries is a much better mapping for transportation than it is for schools.
October 12, 2006 11:51 PM
Terry Parker Says:
A “Since we have 1 car for every 1.1 people here in Oregon it's safe to say that almost all of us pay gas tax. Indeed, most cyclists and transit riders also drive at least some of the time. And of course, every driver is a pedestrian some of the time.”
B Obviously at 1 to 1.1 ratio of cars to people, and realizing that children do not own cars, people then own multiple cars. So using the same logic you propose above, a variation of bicyclists own cars and therefore pay there share of road taxes, people that own more than one car should only have to pay taxes when they drive one of them, and the other one like a bicycle or when riding transit can be used tax free, including not paying taxes on motor fuels for the second vehicle.
October 13, 2006 12:58 AM
What if I drive an electric car that plugs in? I'm not paying for road maintenance either, just like a bicyclist.
You should also note that the gas tax more heavily penalizes autos that consume more gasoline than more efficient vehicles, even though they will both contribute to congestion.
Not to mention people who make their own biodiesel at home and thus pay no taxes on fuel.
If you consider the gas tax a road-user fee, there is obviously a huge gray area when you start to burn less/no gas to move around on roads. Yet it is not illegal.
October 13, 2006 6:23 AM
Ross Williams Says:
There is no real relationship between what someone pays in gas tax and the cost of providing roads while they operate a vehicle burning that gas. Where they drive, when they drive and what they drive all vary and the costs vary wildly as a result.
As Chris points out, we all pay taxes whether we get direct benefits from them or not. The gas tax is no different. User fees are not taxes and the gas tax is not a user fee. People get charged a user fee if they go to the zoo, they also pay taxes to fund the zoo whether they ever go there or not.
October 13, 2006 8:22 AM
Chris Smith Says:
All those scenarios are things that I would suggest further positive public policy goals (and thus I don't particularly mind if you avoid the tax).
However, it does highlight that sooner or later if people make enough choices to shift to alternatives, the gas tax will be insufficient to fund the infrastructure.
Some would argue that we're already at that point.
October 13, 2006 9:45 AM
Ross Williams Says:
Some would argue that we're already at that point.
Is there anyone who would argue we aren't? Its clear the gas tax does not generate enough money to adequately maintain the current infrastructure. The legislature may be making matters worse by spending some of the money on new infrastructure, but even if they spent every dime on maintenance I don't think there would be enough to prevent the deterioration of the road network.
We are waiting for the roof to leak to repair the shingles. The costs will become more and more apparent as the bills comes due to repair the roads damaged by the failure to do regular maintenance. But there will be a new interchange at Jackson School Road.
October 13, 2006 10:48 AM
Clay Fouts Says:
Using taxes as a policy tool is nothing less than socialism.
Unless you're saying that the very existence of government is socialism, I don't understand how it's possible to think that taxes could be used otherwise. We levy taxes as a funding tool for the precise reason of meeting policy goals. Not all individuals like those goals at all times, but that doesn't mean that taxes aren't being used as a policy tool when those same individuals do agree with the goal.
October 13, 2006 10:06 PM
Terry Parker Says:
A “Oregon has an initiative process. All you need to do is collect the signatures and you can put anything on the ballot. I don't think you will find much support for your idea and I don't think you should.”
B It is not that simple. It takes a lot of organization to place an initiative on the ballot. Most people do not have the time or money to do so. Currently we are seeing a lot of initiatives because the legislature is broken, no longer represents the people, and is bought and paid for by special interest lobby groups. As far as support for a bicycle tax, I predict if one was placed on the ballot, it would pass by 55 to 65 percent of the voters. This is why the BTA supporters are running scared and will do anything to keep such a proposal off the table and attempt to stifle any discussion of taxing bicycles. People I talk to like the concept of bicyclists directly paying for bicycle infrastructure about 4 to 1. It is only hardcore bicyclists backed by the special interest politicians that want to continue to allow bicyclists to freeload off the rest of the good citizens of this state. Paying taxes is the responsible part of citizenship bicyclists want to continue to avoid. Sharing the road also means sharing the responsibility, not making excuses such as bicyclists own cars too.
A “If you consider the gas tax a road-user fee, there is obviously a huge gray area when you start to burn less/no gas to move around on roads.”
B For this reason ODOT has considered making a proposal to increase the license and registration fee on hybrids and electric vehicles. The problem is there are to many liberals and not enough votes in the legislature to do so.
A “There is no real relationship between what someone pays in gas tax and the cost of providing roads while they operate a vehicle burning that gas.”
B WRONG! Although some costs are fixed, the simple fact is the more miles driven, the more fuel consumed. This applies to vehicles that get both good or poor fuel mileage. Furthermore, the weight of the a vehicle also has a relationship to road wear. To some degree, heavier vehicles like trucks and busses that get poorer fuel mileage are harder on the roads than light vehicles that get better mileage.
A “Unless you're saying that the very existence of government is socialism, I don't understand how it's possible to think that taxes could be used otherwise.”
B Socialism per Webster: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state -- a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.
Since the bicycle mode of transport is not taxed, using motor vehicle taxes to fund bicycle infrastructure is an unequal distribution of paid tax dollars for the production of a product that is controlled by the state. The same holds true when property taxpayers pay for the government services for properties that are tax abated. In other words, using tax dollars as a policy tool to control how people live or move about is socialism. The only exception would be financial assistance to people who are impoverished and unable to pay their fair share of taxes. However, most bicyclists are NOT so deprived they are unable to pay taxes, and neither are the owners of multi-million dollar properties that are tax abated.
October 14, 2006 1:16 AM
Clay Fouts Says:
It is not that simple. It takes a lot of organization to place an initiative on the ballot... As far as support for a bicycle tax, I predict if one was placed on the ballot, it would pass by 55 to 65 percent of the voters.
The fact that something like that is not to be counted among all the crazy things that show up on our ballots says volumes about what people actually think. If the demand for such a measure existed as a priority for people, it stands to reason that it would be quite feasible to get it on the ballot. If these cyclists are truly as nefarious as you imply and the legislature is too lazy and/or corrupt to resist the almighty BTA and do something about them, surely the good people of Oregon would take it upon themselves to reign in these free-loading, two-wheeled terrors.
For this reason ODOT has considered making a proposal to increase the license and registration fee on hybrids and electric vehicles. The problem is there are to many liberals and not enough votes in the legislature to do so.
Yes, those pesky liberals and their classic reluctance to increase taxes.
WRONG! Although some costs are fixed, the simple fact is the more miles driven, the more fuel consumed.
Fuel expenditure is only a part of the equation in evaluating the cost of providing a person's ability to drive. As just one example, if I drive for three hours every night between 1am and 4am, it costs less to provide the roadway capacity to handle that than if I drove for the three hours between 4pm and 7pm. Driving 100 miles in the city in the middle of the night creates far less strain on available capacity than driving just 10 miles during rush hour, even though driving 100 miles would use much more fuel and contribute more monetarily in terms of fuel tax.
using motor vehicle taxes to fund bicycle infrastructure is an unequal distribution of paid tax dollars for the production of a product that is controlled by the state.
It would seem then that applying the tax contributions of those who don't utilize lavish swaths of runoff-generating roadway and parking pavement to fund expensive public works projects mandated by the presence of excessive runoff is an unequal and socialistic distribution of those taxes. When one's tax contributions pay for the regulatory enforcement of a polluter whose products benefit only others, that's an unequal distribution of those paid tax dollars.
In other words, using tax dollars as a policy tool to control how people live or move about is socialism.
Please give one example of public policy that doesn't affect how people live and move about. Unless they're not spent at all or are spent exclusively on politicians' personal junkets, tax dollars are being used to implement policy. The very nature of public policy is to influence how people live, move and interact within society.
Coming back to somewhere vaguely within the realm of transportation, traffic laws are public policy that very obviously control how people live and move about. Their design, implementation and enforcement is paid for with tax dollars. Is that socialism?
October 14, 2006 5:44 AM
Ross Williams Says:
People I talk to like the concept of bicyclists directly paying for bicycle infrastructure about 4 to 1.
Until they realize their grandkids are "bicyclists" and you apparently want them to have to pay to use the sidewalk or cul-de-sac in front of their house.
the simple fact is the more miles driven, the more fuel consumed.
Only if all vehicles got the same miles per gallon. They don't come even close with the range being a factor of almost 10.
And the miles driven has only a limited relationship to the cost of providing service.
.To some degree, heavier vehicles like trucks and busses that get poorer fuel mileage are harder on the roads than light vehicles that get better mileage.
Which is why Oregon uses weight-mile tax for heavy trucks. For instance a truck weighing 98,000 pounds with seven axels pays 13.8 cents per mile under Oregon's weight-mile tax.
So, by weight mile, my calculation say your typical 200 pound bicyclist would pay 1 cent for about every 72 miles they road their bike. A payment of $1 would cover 7174 miles, more than enough for most people. And of course, lighter riders would pay less and heavier riders more.
October 14, 2006 11:15 PM
Terry Parker Says:
As previously stated, paying taxes is part of citizenship, but too taxes must be balanced among all citizens. Take for example a person that rides a bicycle and /or takes transit almost everywhere on a daily basis. This person doesn’t own a car, but rents one occasionally and on average drives about 200 miles a month, or 2400 miles a year. If the vehicle rented averaged 25 miles per gallon of fuel as driven, (it might get better mileage), the person would pay $23.04 a year in local gasoline taxes, maybe another 50 cents in rental fees that go towards license and registration of the vehicle in Oregon, and approximately $18.75 in federal gas taxes. This person’s out of pocket expenses would thereby only total less than $43.00 a year in direct taxes to support the transportation infrastructure the person on uses daily basis. Adding the costs of license and registration for car ownership would bring the out of pocket yearly total tax expense to approximately $70.00 for the year. Either amount is but a pittance to tax bicyclists for the daily use of roads and bicycle infrastructure that motorists are charged and pay for, but can not use.
If this same person also uses transit, and buys an all zone TriMet transit pass each month at a cost of $74.00 each, $888.00 for the year, this person’s out of pocket tax expenses for the year appears to jump to approximately $958.00. However, since transit fares only cover 20% of transit operating costs, the amount of service this person is actually buying is $4,440.00 worth of transport at the discount of rate of $888.00, thereby costing other taxpayers an additional $3,552.00 for this person’s personal mobility. Therefore, the person is not paying taxes at all and is actually receiving a government subsidy of over $4,500,00 for the out of pocket expense of less than $1000.00.
Conclusions that can be reached include: It is a FALSEHOOD to make statements that because bicyclists drive and/or own cars, they pay their fair share of transportation taxes - & - Both bicyclists and transit users by an substantial amount do not even begin to pay their own way.
Furthermore, the kind of shell game tax behavior bicyclists and transit advocates exhibit can be likened to the multi-million dollar corporations doing business in Oregon that only pay $10.00 a year in Oregon income taxes. None of this tax dodge behavior merits what could be called as responsible citizenship. The scenario also validates why the bicycle mode of transport should be taxed, why all users (bicyclists, transit users and pedestrians) should also pay tolls for infrastructure where tolls exist for motor vehicles, and why transit fares should better reflect the cost of providing service.
October 14, 2006 11:25 PM
Chris Smith Says:
OK, Terry, but how is that any different than the tax transfer from taxpayers who do not have children in schools to those who do?
My belief is that cyclists and transit riders are providing a benefit to all of society by avoiding the negative externalities that increased auto use would cause. So a policy choice to encourage them with a subsidy is not at all inappropriate.
October 14, 2006 11:29 PM
Chris Smith Says:
One of the key criteria in tax theory is that taxes should be efficient, that is the cost to collect them should be small compared to the receipts.
How would you propose to efficiently tax cyclists? Every estimate I have seen for a registration system would cost more in administration than the revenue it would generate?
October 15, 2006 5:22 AM
Gas taxes as a user fee have a correlation between gas consumed while driving a car and damage done to a road that necessitates repair and/or expansion of roads.
Taxing bicycles for a 2-foot section of roadway filled with broken glass, nails, drain, gutters, with cars whizzing by at 40 mph will not endear people to pay a useage fee (toll). This is because nobody in their right mind would consider this a very good value. In fact, the current state of the bicycle network in Portland sucks. Most citizens consider bicycling very dangerous (which is why there is such a low % of bicyclists in town) and don't do it.
I can guarantee any attempt at tolling bicyclists - to say nothing of WALKING - would be political suicide at its' worst.
Talk of tolling pedestrians for useage of public sidewalks would likely have said politicians/planners/whatever thrown in a mental institution for stupidity.
As an added point, there is virtually no maintenance required for bike paths and pedestrian walkways/sidewalks - or at least, a very minimal amount(such as when a tree breaks through the pavement) as compared to roads for cars. Downtown you can even find sidewalks that were paved almost 100 years ago - and never since then!
But hey, keep on proposing it! I'm SURE reitering your same point over and over makes YOU right!
October 15, 2006 8:10 AM
Ross Williams Says:
Taxing kids to ride their bikes on the sidewalk makes perfect sense to me, I have no kids who use sidewalks.
Terry refuses to even address the public benefits people who ride their bike or use transit provide by their choice of mode that more than offset the public costs. And he ignores the public burdens imposed by those who choose to use an automobile. Finally he ignores entirely, the vast differences of both costs and payments among different motorists.
This argument has gotten old indeed. Especially since it is about whether bicyclists should pay less than a $1 per year in taxes.
October 16, 2006 3:03 PM
Paul Edgar Says:
To to charge user fees for bicyclists is to me reasonable if in fact we provide special exclusive use public facilities/infrastructure.
We charge boat users fees for allowing them to put their boats into water. There are a lot of other examples where we charge user fees for special or enhanced facilities.
On the flip side commuting bicyclist liberate/free up a lot of space on our road and freeway system. If we were to have build out more capacity roads anhd highways the to equal what the commuting bicyclist give back, in my mind we are saving a lot of money.
So thank you to the commuting bicyclist for saving me money and helping the environment and letting me drive my car in less congestion.
October 17, 2006 10:07 AM
Terry Parker Says:
A “OK, Terry, but how is that any different than the tax transfer from taxpayers who do not have children in schools to those who do?
B Yes. You and I were, or had the opportunity to be educated under the same scenario in public schools. We need to provide the same for the next generation. However, when the schools ask for more amenities than were available when I attended K-12 in Portland Public Schools, and when the administrative size and salaries become obese like currently exist, then I object. As an example: All except one of my class sizes ranged from 32 students to 40 students. Therefore, anything less than 28 to 30 students per class today is a luxury that is not necessary. One way to resolve the issue is to link teacher pay to class size. To receive full pay teachers would be required to have 30 students per class. Furthermore, the Superintendent’s salary is excessive and there is no need for both a Superintendent and a Chief Operating Officer in the Portland School District.
A “My belief is that cyclists and transit riders are providing a benefit to all of society by avoiding the negative externalities that increased auto use would cause.”
B Bicyclists and transit riders that do not pay for the majority of the costs of providing the specialized infrastructure and transport they use only take from taxpayers, society and the economy. Motorists pay 90 plus percent of the infrastructure they use, a percentage that would probably rise if money was not siphoned off to subsidize and support other modes. Furthermore, motorists have a huge positive impact on jobs and the economy thereby providing a direct benefit to society. Directly taxing bicyclists should however start at the age of 18. Most children ride bicycles on existing streets and sidewalks without special treatment and within their own residential neighborhoods, and therefore are not pressing taxpayers to fund specialized bicycle infrastructure.