Let’s pretend the writers here at Jalopnik all lived in Oregon. Let’s also pretend the Oregon State House decided they wanted to bankrupt all of us. This recently proposed bill, HB2877, would probably be a pretty good way to get that done. Essentially, this bill proposes a tax of $1,000, payable every five years, on all cars 20 years or older. I’ve never been happier to not be in Oregon. Update: It’s dead, we won!
Hypothetically, if this bill passed and I lived in Oregon, I’d be on the hook for $3,000 right now. Actually, probably $4,000, because if I had gathered up $3,000 I’d probably blow it on this ‘75 Fiat 126 I’ve had my eye on before I remembered that money was for some stupid tax.
Here’s how the bill describes the proposed tax:
SECTION 2. (1) An impact tax is hereby imposed on motor vehicles as provided in this section. A person shall pay the tax if the person owns a motor vehicle registered in this state and the model year of the motor vehicle is 20 years old or older on January 1 of the current year. The tax shall be collected by the Department of Transportation every five years on or before January 31 of the year in which the tax is due.
(2) The amount of the tax is $1,000.
I’ve read through the bill and so far have not found any particular justification for why cars 20 years or older are being targeted for this “impact tax.” At first, I wondered if it was for some misguided environmental goal, on the assumption that the older cars pollute more, but I found no reference to that in the bill.
Even if I did, I tend to believe the (admittedly contested) idea that holding onto an old car has environmental benefits as well. But that barely matters, since the bill makes no mention of any pollution-related reason for targeting the 20-year and older cars.
The bill does offer an exemption for cars registered as ‘Antique Vehicles,’ so all you 1922 Hupmobile owners in Portland don’t have to worry, but the broke-ass woman who adores her 1995 Saturn SL1 will now have to cough up a grand just for the pleasure of continuing to own her rapidly deteriorating plastic car.
The real problem with this bill is it’s targeting people for whom this tax will be an especially great burden, for no good reason. Think about it. There’s really two groups of people who own cars 20 years or older: people who love particular vintage cars, and people whose limited economic means require them to either buy older used cars or hold on to the old cars they have.
This bill isn’t going to be a huge burden for the person collecting ‘60s Mustangs or the guy who finally imported that Skyline; it’s going to be terrible for the single mom babying a 1996 Toyota Corolla to get her back and forth to work, or the college kid with the grandma’s hand-me-down 1991 Buick Regal.
Sure, $1000 every five years only comes to $200/year, but getting together $1000 for a lump sum is a very big deal, especially to the sorts of people who drive 1997 Ford Aspires. If you had a 1997 Ford Aspire, would you want to pay a grand for anything having to do with that car? Oregon is making a tax that could literally total people’s cars.
And for what? The bill says that the revenue from the impact tax will go to the Highway Fund:
(g) All moneys and revenues received from all other sources which by law are allocated or dedicated for highway purposes.
(2) The State Highway Fund shall be deemed and held as a trust fund, separate and distinct from the General Fund, and may be used only for the purposes authorized by law and is continually ap- propriated for such purposes.
(3) Moneys in the State Highway Fund may be invested as provided in ORS 293.701 to 293.857. All interest earnings on any of the funds designated in subsection (1) of this section shall be placed to the credit of the highway fund.
Look, I get that highways need money, and you have to pay your taxes to make sure the highways get taken care of. That’s fine. I do that in the state where I live, and I’m happy to pitch in.
What I don’t understand is why owners of cars that have aged two decades or more should be singled out to pay more of their money for roads everyone, even people in brand-new cars, use.
It’s not like older cars add more wear and tear to the roads. In fact, with the way car weights have been growing over the years, the opposite is actually probably true.
I contacted the Oregon State House and was told they have been getting a lot of calls about HB2877, which is good. They should be getting plenty of calls. I was passed on to the Revenue Committee and left messages with the committee’s chair Phil Barnhart, as well as the senior economist Mazen Malik.
Perhaps there’s a rational reason to target people with older cars, and perhaps they’ll get back to me and explain it to me. I’m not going to deprive myself of any breathing in the meantime.
As the bill stands now, HB2877 looks like a cash grab that will burden a group of people least able to bear the burden, without any rational justification as to why.
There’s all kinds of great old cars in Oregon. I’ve seen them! One of the only Renault Florides I’ve ever seen in the wild was in Portland, even. There’s no reason to penalize people for making their state more interesting by driving great vintage cars through the streets, and there’s no reason to penalize someone for holding onto an older car because they just don’t have the money for anything newer at the moment.
I was told HB2877 is still on the speaker’s docket, waiting to be referred. Let’s hope the only place this bill goes off that desk is into the trash.
UPDATE: Good news! We won! Or, more likely, everyone just wised up and realized how idiotic this proposed bill was. It’s dead.