We all know how Republicans think: "I know, we'll tax bikes! Buncha hippies who weren't going to vote for us anyway, amirite?" I can just picture Scott Walker chortliing.
But his War On Hippies is missing the group that will be hit hardest: Working-class families with children. We were poor: I didn't have a bike until I was 15, and I paid for it myself. ($35, saved it from my part-time job.) My own kids got bikes for Christmas, and we all know how happy that made them. Who doesn't want a bike?
But times are hard, and a $25 additional tax on bikes means, at least for some families, no bikes on Christmas morning. You don't get much more mean-spirited than that. (Except for that fundraising letter his minions sent out in 2013, suggesting that parents skip the Christmas gifts and donate to him instead -- giving your kids "a stronger Wisconsin.") Think Progress:
MADISON, WISCONSIN — In just one year, Wisconsin’s bike friendliness ranking from the non-partisan League of American Bicyclists dropped from the third best in country to ninth. If the state legislature approves Governor Scott Walker’s budget, which slashes funding for bike infrastructure, boosts spending on freeways and imposes a new tax on bicycle sales, the ranking could plummet further.
As Governor Walker prepares for a likely run for the White House, he’s been traveling the country touting his record of slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, saying he has “put more money back in the hands of the hardworking taxpayers.”
Yet Governor Walker and his allies in the Madison statehouse have found one corporate sector where they’re willing to raise taxes: bicycles. Though they have been hesitant to consider boosting taxes on gasoline or vehicle registration fees, state lawmakers have been pushing a $25 tax on the sale of all new bicycles in the state, on top of the existing sales tax.
Daily bike commuters, like fourth generation Wisconsinite Brian Ward, told ThinkProgress it feels like an “attack on cycling.”
“When you create barriers to people accessing a bike, it’s a real burden and a disincentive,” he said. “There are a lot of misconceptions about what kind of people bike, and you do have the people who have a lot of money and do it for sport, but you also have people who just need to get to work. It’s not uncommon to go on a trail and see people of all shapes and sizes and types of bikes.”
In addition to floating the new bike tax, the budget currently under consideration would repeal the state’s “Complete Streets” law. The policy, which mandates that all new road construction and repairs take cyclists and pedestrians into consideration, makes up only about $190,000, or six-one-thousandths of one percent of the total transportation budget, according to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. They are also considering gutting millions of dollars from two additional bike infrastructure efforts: the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, which provides matching grants for creating and maintaining trails, and Transportation Alternatives, which funds the creation of routes for children to safely bike to school, among other initiatives.