AUGUSTA — The Bicycle Coalition of Maine opposes LD 1189, a bill that would impose a 2 percent surcharge on retail bicycle sales.
Nancy Grant, the coalition’s executive director, will testify against the bill at a public hearing before the Maine Legislature’s Transportation Committee on April 12 at 1 p.m. in Room 126 of the Statehouse.
“This bill would hurt small businesses – namely, Maine’s bike shops,” Grant said. “Our state’s 57 bike shops already face stiff competition from bikes sales on the Internet, where there is no sales tax. It’s especially difficult to run a bike shop in the southern part of the state because they have to compete with shops in New Hampshire, which has no sales tax. The 2 percent surtax will motivate more Mainers to buy their bicycles outside of Maine bike shops.”
In a press release from the BCM Grant noted that the surcharge also would make bicycles more expensive. “That will discourage bicycle riding at a time when we should be encouraging it for health and environmental reasons,” she said. “As gas approaches $4 a gallon, commuting by bicycle to school, work and errands also can help Maine families save money.”
The bill, introduced by Rep. Ralph Sarty (R-Denmark), calls for proceeds from the surcharge to be used by the Maine Department of Transportation to “construct, improve and maintain bikeways for use primarily by bicyclists and pedestrians.” Grant said the tax as unfair, since bicyclists already pay local and state taxes to support road improvements. Most bicyclists drive cars and also pay gas taxes, she said. Moreover, she said, bicyclists do minimal damage to roads compared to cars and trucks.
Grant said that such a surcharge would raise only a small amount of money and it would have a negligible impact on constructing and maintaining bicycle infrastructure.
“About 10,000 bikes are sold in Maine each year,” she said. “If the average price of a bike is $400, the total funds collected would be $80,000. That would hardly cover the engineering and design costs of a typical bike/pedestrian project, much less the construction. Subtract the cost of administering this tax, and there’s even less.”