The Republican-controlled Wisconsin state government has floated yet another ridiculously bad idea…a $25 fee on new bicycles, or, as I like to call it, the Mary Burke Tax. Burke is a former Trek Bicycles executive who ran a horrible campaign for Governor of Wisconsin in 2014, losing to Republican incumbent Scott Walker. This proposal, along with the repeal of the Wisconsin Complete Streets law, which requires bicycle and pedestrian uses to be factored into transportation projects in Wisconsin, is part of a political war on cycling in Wisconsin.
More than anything else, this is clearly the Republicans’ way of getting political payback at Burke for running against Walker. After all, the Republicans usually don’t support anything that could even be remotely interpreted as raising taxes….except, of course, if the new tax or tax increase primarily affects Democrats, liberals, progressives, environmentally-conscious people, women, minorities, businesses they don’t like, and/or the poor.
While I’ve not seen Republicans in Wisconsin use this talking point, at least one Republican in the State of Washington tried to claim that, because people breathe out carbon dioxide, bicyclists cause more pollution than people using other forms of transportation, while trying to defend a proposed bicycle tax in Washington state. That’s a false argument, since it doesn’t factor in the fact that plants breathe in carbon dioxide as part of the carbon cycle.
While I’ve not been on a bicycle since I was five or six years old, and I’m too clumsy to ride a bicycle because I have Asperger’s syndrome, waging a political war on cycling will lead to more pollution and more traffic crashes involving bicyclists, something that Wisconsin, Washington state, and the rest of this country simply can’t afford. Should state governments need to fill transportation budget deficits, I recommend enacting taxes on automobiles that get very poor gas mileage and taxes on gasoline-powered automobiles (i.e., automobiles that are not electric or hybrid) worth more than $50,000, if a particular state doesn’t already collect such taxes.