Senate Bill 1183, the bill from Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) which was originally proposed as a “bike tax,” is no longer a bike tax. This time the change is not just in the bill’s title – the bill, which originally proposed a sales tax on bicycles to create a stable source of funding to maintain bicycle facilities in regional parks, now proposes a fee on motor vehicle registrations instead.
If passed, S.B. 1183 would not automatically impose any fees, but allows cities, counties, and regional parks to propose them for the ballot and seek approval from two-thirds of local voters. The new vehicle registration surcharge would be capped at $5.
The original proposed tax was opposed by the California Retailers Association as well as the usual anti-tax organizations, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. In addition, the Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee analysis pointed out serious concerns with how a bicycle tax would be administered. It would have necessitated the unfunded creation of a new set of procedures by the Board of Equalization.
A motor vehicle registration fee, on the other hand, could be administered easily by the DMV without having to set up a new system.
“We were looking for a different mechanism to raise the funds,” said Doug Houston, legislative advocate for the East Bay Regional Park District, the sponsor of the bill. “There was consternation about a sales tax on bicycles, a social good, with some advocates asking why we would want to penalize or discourage bike riding.”
The fee was conceived as a way for regional parks to create a stable, if small, source of funds to pay for the maintenance of bike facilities, including paved trails.
Robert Doyle, the East Bay Regional Park District’s general manager, said the district has grants to complete ten projects that link existing trails within the system. “But then we have to patrol and maintain them,” he said.