Proposed Highway Trust Fund Changes Would Tax Bike Tires, Electric Car Batteries

CC BY 2.0. Everything urban gets taxed from bikes to transit/ Lloyd Alter

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet. -George Harrison

The Highway Trust Fund is supposed to cover the cost of highway maintenance and renewal, but it is funded by the Federal Fuel Tax, which has not been increased since 1993. Now Bill Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,has released a draft proposal to make the Trust Fund solvent. It increases the tax on gasoline by 15 cents and diesel by 20 cents per gallon, and gears them to inflation. This is likely a non-starter given that the Republican base drives a lot in big pickups, but there are other new taxes that look juicy:

Section 111. Elimination of Reduced Rate for Intercity and Local Public Transportation Buses.
This section eliminates the reduced user fee on fuel used by certain intercity and local public transportation buses. The reduced user fee on fuel used by school buses remains in effect.
So, public transportation will cost more. Because after all, they use the public roads, right? Actually, probably not since it it is mostly in cities, where roads are paid for by the municipality. And who uses buses anyway? It's mostly urban people
Section 112. Application of Tax on Diesel to Certain Passenger Trains.
This section reinstates the 4.3 cents per gallon user fee on diesel used by passenger trains eligible for funding under certain federal public transportation programs. The user fee is indexed to inflation.

I mean, really, trains don’t even use the highways but run on private rights-of-way built and owned by the railways.

Section 113. Electric Vehicle Battery Excise Tax.
This section establishes a 10 percent user fee on the wholesale price of electric batteries used to propel motor vehicles.

One could make a case that this makes some sense, since electric cars do actually use the highway. On the other hand, it is deeply unfair that the gas tax is a pay-as-you-go tax; whereas this is an upfront cost increase for electric cars that will be huge, as batteries are a major portion of the cost of electric cars. Obviously the argument that 'promoting electric cars is a good thing so they shouldn’t be taxed' won’t play with this government.

Section 114. Bicycle Tire Tax.
This section establishes a 10 percent user fee on the wholesale price of bicycle tires used on adult bicycles.

Where do we start? How do you define an adult bicycle? How many bicycles are actually ridden on highways supported by the trust fund? If you are going to tax human-powered transport, why isn’t there a tax on shoelaces?

Shuster is quoted in The Hill as saying this is just a discussion paper.

This discussion draft does not represent a complete and final infrastructure bill. It is meant to reignite discussions amongst my colleagues, and I urge all Members to be open-minded and willing to work together in considering real solutions that will give America the modern day infrastructure it needs.

That gives the Republicans time to add a tax on shoelaces, and to somehow exempt pickup trucks as work vehicles necessary for maintaining the economy.