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Trek urges Wisconsin cyclists to oppose governor's proposed budget cuts and bike tax

Published May 20, 2015

WATERLOO, Wis. (BRAIN) — Trek Bicycle's president, John Burke, is urging Wisconsin cyclists to contact their state lawmakers in support of the state's Complete Streets Law, which Gov. Scott Walker has proposed eliminating. Burke, in an email sent this week, also urged them to oppose a $25 state bicycle sales tax proposed by a state representative.

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The Complete Streets Law requires that when a road is built, designers must take into account the needs of cyclists and pedestrians.

Walker, who is expected to seek the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, has said eliminating the Complete Street Law, first enacted in 2010, would save $7.4 million in the state's next two-year budget period.

Burke said, "This important law has created more paved shoulders, bike lanes, and fewer dangerous intersections for both cyclists and pedestrians throughout the state." 

Burke's sister, former Trek executive Mary Burke, ran against Walker for the governor's office last year.

In announcing its annual Bike Friendly States rankings earlier this month, the League of American Bicyclists cited Walker's proposed cuts as contributing to the state's ranking, which fell from third in 2014 to ninth in 2015.

"Gov. Walker has proposed a repeal of the Wisconsin Complete Streets law, cuts to state funding for bicycling and walking, and the elimination of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which often provides matching funds for trail projects. If these changes come to pass, bicycling in Wisconsin will be set back significantly and it may be years to recover the state support for bicycling that has led to Wisconsin's history of being one of the most Bicycle Friendly States in America," the League said.

In his email, Burke said he learned of a proposed bike tax just this week.

"We cannot sit on the sidelines at a time when the bicycle is becoming an ever more important solution to this country's health, congestion, and environmental issues. Now is not the time to tax products that improve health, reduce congestion, and create a better environment," he wrote.

Burke asked recipients to email their state senator and representative to urge them to restore Complete Streets and $2 million in Transportation Alternatives Funding and to oppose the $25 bike tax.

"Taxes on other industries are being cut. This is no time to single out the bike industry for a tax increase. The bicycle industry produces over $1.5 billion in economic activity and supports over 14,000 jobs," he said.

Burke urged respondents to contact their lawmakers before Thursday.

The Joint Finance Committee made the bike tax proposal Tuesday, as an alternative for funding the Complete Streets program. The committee estimated a tax on bikes with 20-inch wheels or larger would raise $7.2 million over the next two-year budget period and $4.8 million a year thereafter, based on average annual sales figures extrapolated from an NBDA statistical report. Minus 3 percent for the state Department of Revenue, the proceeds would be deposited into the state transportation fund.

The Wisconsin Bike Federation strongly opposes the bike tax, the group said on its website. "While we don’t oppose some sort of revenue stream to support improvements for bikeways, that revenue source would have to equitable, dedicated to projects that benefit cyclists, and efficient to collect. The legislature shouldn’t be imposing a significant new tax without any study and without asking for feedback from the cycling public or the biking industry in our state."

A group spokesman noted that the Republican-controlled legislature has been eager to reduce taxes and fees on other industries, but seems to have singled out the bike industry for a new tax.

"I think the reason these anti-bike policies are being proposed is it’s a red-meat issue for a lot of Republicans," Bike Fed executive director Dave Cieslewicz told Madison.com. "They have stereotypes about what cyclists are and they don’t see them as their voters. They see attacks on cycling as politically beneficial." 

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