A proposed bill would have cost owners of 20-year-old vehicles $1000 every five years in the state of Oregon. After reading through this bill (HB2877), it appears that this “impact tax” was designed to benefit the highway fund. Although this bill is officially dead in the water, this seems like an extreme measure designed to penalize car enthusiasts and those who don’t wish to purchase a new hybrid, electric, or fossil fuel powered car.
Many car guys and gals, drive vehicles that are approaching or exceeding the 20-year mark because they have certain attachment to their ride or they just don’t want to deal with a car payment. Think about what many racers tow their race cars with, older pickup trucks that are powered by gasoline or diesel fuel. These are not the most environmentally friendly vehicles on the planet, but is it ethical for the government to impose a tax that will force citizens to purchase new environmentally friendly vehicles? There was no mention of the emissions impact of these vehicles in the bill, which gives credence to the absurdity of this attempted piece of legislation. Tax older cars out of the realm of affordability for the very people who cannot absorb such a substantial increase in fees.
Dennis Pittsenbarger of Cars Illustrated Magazine and a resident of Oregon, had plenty to say about the impact of this bill. “Horrifically, if you look at the format of this bill it puts the target on not only the casual performance junkies, but more importantly the regular family,” said Pittsenbarger. Essentially, this bill targeted a population of Oregon residents who could least afford this additional fee, not just the performance crowd. He brought up an excellent point when he described the working family who can only afford a cheap older car and the genius behind the added tax on these people. Had this bill gone further, it could have impacted a family’s ability to continue to work and thus had greater economic impact.
Not everyone wants to drive a Prius or Chevy Volt, perhaps someone is happy with their 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee and does not want purchase a new car. If it meets the emissions testing requirements and is safe to drive on the highway, then drive it for all it’s worth. Fortunately, SEMA helped to extinguish this attempt at highway robbery, but what if other states or lawmakers get the same idea? “It just shows what SEMA is there for – they have two full time guys on staff that do nothing more than read endless pages of proposed bills looking for just such an attempt to slide something past the automotive community and take more money out of our pockets for bureaucratic red-tape,” said Pittsenbarger. In addition, Pittsenbarger added, “It’s also why the regular Joe should be part of SAN. (SEMA Action Network) and do their part to help protect our passion for the automotive industry.”
In the Oregon bill, there was an exception for antique cars, but trying to define an antique vehicle can be a subjective process at best. However, many vehicles would never make it to antique status if a bill like HB2877 were to pass. How would the eventual destruction of the first LS1-powered F-Bodies impact the classic car market of the future? If other states were to adopt this misguided approach to older cars, what impact will this have on employment or the economy?
All of the potential what if’s are enough to make one’s head spin, but it is important to stay vigilant when it comes to legislation that impacts the freedom of movement, livelihoods, and hot rods in general. California is one of the least friendly states when it comes to the automotive hobby thanks to smog laws, emissions testing, and the sheer cost to register a vehicle. Although, it does not approach the nearly $200 a year in impact taxes as outlined in HB2877, it is still substantial for a family that struggles to afford transportation.
It seems as though Oregon creates many of these pilot programs for revenue generation and that other states, like California follow along blindly. For example, when Oregon introduced a program that charged drivers by the mile instead of the standard fee scale for registration renewals, California followed suit in testing out this program. This follow the leader mentality is scary for those who are economically vulnerable or who just love working on cars. Although HB2877 is dead, it is crucial to stay active and aware of the wool that big brother may attempt to pull over your eyes down the road.