K. Lloyd Billingsley - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Billingsley is Editorial Director for the Pacific
Research Institute and has been widely published on topics
including on popular culture, defense policy, education reform,
and many other current policy issues. [go to Billingsley index]
New Tax on Bicycles?
Sacramento disconnected from reality…
Lloyd Billingsley] 3/24/05
Day approaches and gasoline prices rise, one legislator seems
determined to make environmentally friendly transportation
more costly for Californians.
a Long Beach Democrat, wants to slap a $7 fee on the purchase
of, yes, bicycles, the pollution-free
many commuters use for daily transportation here in the capital.
The claimed motive for AB 1103, Karnette’s measure, is
Karnette believes landfills are packed to capacity. She envisions
a series of recycling centers
that would take old
bikes that might be junked and work them into community programs
that would loan the bikes to, as one account put it, “commuters
or disadvantaged youth.” Before legislators opt to roll
with this measure, they should consider a point or two.
Bicycles are not a disposal problem in California. One does
not see them piled up beside the road. Those that are discarded
quickly vanish and the parts find their way onto other bikes.
Metal frames can already be recycled and are usually snapped
up by entrepreneurial types. And groups such as the Salvation
Army accept discarded bikes and refurbish them.
are also already a favored means of transportation for both
commuters and the disadvantaged, one
reason they are
prime targets for theft. A tax on new bikes might make them more
so. A bike could be stolen for the $3 fee Karnette's legislation
would give to those turning in bikes to a recycling center. The
other $4 – most of the money – is slated for administrative
By one estimate, the trade in new bicycles in California amounts
to three to four million dollars every year. By the calculation
of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Karnette's tax would add nearly
10 percent to the price of bicycles sold in discount stores,
a common point of purchase. The $7 tax would come in addition
to the already hefty state sales tax of nearly eight percent.
told reporters that the $7 levy she wants is "not
a tax." She describes it as a fee. One may also call a duck
a chicken, but that does not change reality. The measure is indeed
a tax that would fatten government and make life more difficult
for bicycle dealers. It would bring in an estimated $28 million
a year and feed the illusions of politicians who believe that
such measures help the disadvantaged. They don't.
AB 1103 is not backed by any new studies on recycling patterns.
It would punish people who seek to use a zero-emission form of
transportation. But it does underscore the unreality that exists
Recall the "laugh tax," an
attempt during the 1990s to tax editorial cartoons as though
works of art purchased
in a gallery. In similar style, AB 1103 will help make a national
laughingstock out of California, supposedly an environmentally
The market for bicycles, new and used, works better than any
scheme politicians can invent, with one possible exception. Those
who want to see more Californians avail themselves of healthy,
pollution-free transportation should consider exempting bicycles
from the sales tax. CRO
2005 Pacific Research Institute