Think of an activity that you as a law-abiding free citizen enjoy. Chances are, Chicago’s bureaucrats have found a way to tax it directly or indirectly — and if they haven’t you can be sure they’re working on it.
Smoker? Chicago definitely wants to tax that behavior. Expect to pay roughly $7.50 a pack. Cyclist? Yes, you’re on the hook, too. You didn’t think that being a card-carrying member of the Green Team would exempt you from the compulsion to tax, tax, tax did you?
CHICAGO — A city councilwoman’s recent proposal to institute a $25 annual cycling tax set off a lively debate that eventually sputtered out after the city responded with a collective “Say what?” A number of gruff voices spoke in favor, feeding off motorists’ antagonism toward what they deride as stop sign-running freeloaders. Bike-friendly bloggers retorted that maybe pedestrians ought to be charged a shoe tax to use the sidewalks.
“There’d be special bike cops pulling people over? Or cameras? What do you do (to enforce this)?” asked Mike Salvatore, owner of Heritage Bicycles, a new Chicago hangout that neatly blends a lively cafe with a custom bike-building workshop in a 19th-century building.
Chicago is by no means the only place across the U.S. tempted to see bicyclists as a possible new source of revenue, only to run into questions of fairness and enforceability. That is testing the vision of city leaders who are transforming urban expanses with bike lanes and other amenities in a quest for relevance, vitality and livability — with never enough funds.
Two or three states consider legislation each year for some type of cycling registration and tax — complete with decals or mini-license plates, National Conference of State Legislatures policy specialist Douglas Shinkle said. This year, it was Georgia, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. The Oregon legislation, which failed, would even have applied to children.
“I really think that legislators are just trying to be as creative as possible and as open to any sort of possibilities to fill in any funding gaps. Everything is on the table,” he said.
Give yourself bonus points if the main takeaway you got from the AP story was that there is “never enough revenue.” No matter how much you are taxed, it will never satisfy the pathological do-gooder.
Growing up, did you ever think you would see the day when bureaucrats would devise mandatory mini-license plates for people who use bike trails? Shop owners like Mike Salvatore of Heritage Bicycles in Chicago is only partially joking when he asks about enforcement mechanisms like “special bike cops” and cameras that would be on the lookout for the guy who didn’t pay his “fair” share to the city’s power-brokers — but the people who come up with ridiculous rules and regulations are very serious.
Bike lanes? Get ready for bike tollways with little manned booths at random stops along your path around the city. Think of a crazy way for a city to raise revenue and then wait — in due time the tax or regulation that you deemed fit for admission into a psyche ward will be seriously debated among the masterminds in your neck of the woods.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to ponder how Chicago might tax runners. I’m thinking that the the environmental impact of ethylene-vinyl acetate or EVA alternatives used in running shoes might be a good angle. An no, you don’t get a tax reprieve if your name is Lenn Rockford Hann, the engineer from Chicago who made lighter faster running shoes.